Josephine Hamilton

Year conviction was overturned:

Josephine Hamilton 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 Hamilton pleaded guilty to 14 counts of false accounting. The prosecution agreed not to proceed with a
charge of theft on the basis that the outstanding shortfall of £36,644.89 paid by the time of sentence. She received a community sentence order for 12 months with a 12-month supervision requirement. She was ordered to pay £1,000 towards the prosecution costs. She had to re-mortgage her house to enable her to make these payments. Ms Hamilton has said that she pleaded guilty in order to avoid prison.

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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