Jacqueline McDonald

Years in prison:
0.5
Year of crime:
2008
Year conviction was overturned:
2021

Jacqueline McDonald was one of the “Post Office 39,” a group of former sub-postmasters and post-mistresses who were convicted of offences including theft, false accounting, and fraud, based on information from a computer system called Horizon which suggested that money had gone missing from post-office branch accounts.

Ms McDonald pleaded guilty to theft and to six counts of false accounting. She was sentenced to a total term of imprisonment of 18 months. Judgment. A confiscation order was made in the sum of £99,759.60. As a result of the proceedings against her, Mrs McDonald was forced to file for bankruptcy.

The basis of each of the prosecutions of the “Post Office 39” was that money missing from the branch account had been a result of theft by the sub-postmaster or mistress, or had been covered up by fraud or false accounting by the sub-postmaster or mistress. On appeal, the Court of Appeal accepted findings that bugs, errors, and defects in Horizon could, and did, cause discrepancies and shortfalls in branch accounts. The court concluded that if the Horizon data was not reliable then there was no basis for the prosecution, and the convictions were quashed. The court noted that failures of investigation and disclosure in the cases prevented the appellants from challenging, or challenging effectively, the reliability of the Horizon data.

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