Lynette Hutchings

Year conviction was overturned:

Lynette Hutchings 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.

Horizon indicted a shortfall of £10,814.83 in Ms Hutching’s accounts and she was investigated on that basis. She had called Horizon multiple times for help, and when interviewed she made it clear that problems with the accounts had arisen since her branch had transferred to Horizon online. She had believed that the incorrect balances would be sorted out by transaction corrections in time, although she admitted that she had balanced the books to put off having to short out the problem. There was no investigation into her complaints and she was charged with fraud and false accounting. She pleaded guilty to one count of false accounting. No evidence was offered against her on the fraud charge, and a not guilty verdict was entered on that charge. She received a community sentence order with an unpaid work requirement of 120 hours.

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 conviction was 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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