Janet Skinner 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 Skinner pleaded guilty to one count of false accounting. The alleged shortfall was £59,175.39. She was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment and was ordered to pay £11,000 of compensation to the Post Office.
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.
Ms Skinner said she was devastated by the miscarriage of justice, “I was devastated. I was sent to jail for something I hadn’t done but no one would believe me.”
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- Offence: False accounting
- Jurisdiction: England & Wales
- County: Surrey
- Ethnicity: White
- Gender: F
- Years in prison: .5
- Offence convicted of: False Accounting
- Year of crime: 2006
- Year of initial conviction: 2007
- Year conviction was overturned: 2021
- CCRC Referral: Y
- Post Office Case: Y
- Tried with others: N
- Link to full case: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Hamilton-Others-v-Post-Office-judgment-230421.pdf
- Crown argued case at CofA: Argued one ground but not the other
- Retrial: N