Pauline Thomson

Year conviction was overturned:

Pauline Thomson 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 Thompson had 25 years of experience in Post Offices when she became the village sub-postmistress at Matfield in Kent. At a Post Office audit, Ms Thomson accepted that the cash on hand was about £40,000 short, and could offer no explanation. The defence statement raised (among other things) the possibility that the discrepancy as caused by Horizon malfunction or error. A defence forensic accountancy expert noted that there was “a paucity of evidence that any loss was caused by dishonest actions of Ms Thomson.”

Ms Thomson pleaded guilty to three counts of false accounting based on alleged shortfall was £34,331.41. 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 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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