Sunderland subpostmistress who 'lost home and business' cleared after wrongful conviction in Horizon scandal

A former Sunderland subpostmistress has told of her horrendous experiences after she and another six wrongly convicted as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal were cleared by the Court of Appeal.

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 2:07 pm
Christopher and Pauline Stonehouse outside the the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after former subpostmistress Mrs Stonehouse, has been been cleared by the Court of Appeal after she was wrongly convicted as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal. Picture date: Monday November 22, 2021.

On Monday, three senior judges overturned the convictions of seven people who were convicted based on evidence from the faulty IT system used by the Post Office from 2000.

Lord Justice Holroyde, sitting with Mr Justice Picken and Mrs Justice Farbey, quashed the conviction of Pauline Stonehouse, a former subpostmistress in Seaburn, Sunderland.

Ms Stonehouse said she felt “massive relief” after her convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal.

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Former subpostmasters outside the the Royal Courts of Justice, London, to challenge their convictions for offences including false accounting and theft, following a spate of overturned convictions as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal. Picture date: Monday November 22, 2021.

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the 49-year-old mother-of-two said her conviction for six counts of false accounting in 2008 was “horrible”.

“To have a good day for a change was nice,” she said.

Ms Stonehouse, of Pallion, Sunderland, who was supported in court by her husband Christopher, described the impact of her “horrendous” experience.

“We lost our home, we lost our business, we were homeless with two children under the age of eight. We ended up bankrupt, we ended up with nothing,” she said.

Ms Stonehouse said she wanted “an apology with my name on it” from the Post Office over her case.

“I’d like a personal apology, I think we should all get a personal apology,” she said.

The others cleared were Angela Sefton, Janine Powell, Anne Nield, Gregory Harding, Marissa Finn and Jamie Dixon.

The former Post Office workers had been accused of offences including theft and false accounting related to shortfalls of tens of thousands of pounds.

Their appeals were unopposed by the Post Office, who accepted that evidence about the reliability of the Fujitsu-developed system was "essential" to their convictions.

The court heard Ms Stonehouse, who pleaded guilty to six counts of false accounting in 2008 after suffering a shortfall of over £15,000, said she had faced unexplained discrepancies in her Sunderland branch since the installation of the Horizon system and that she had "no confidence" in it at the time.

Several of the former Post Office workers had attempted to make up the shortfalls with their own money, the Court of Appeal heard.

Kate O'Raghallaigh, representing five of the people who brought unopposed appeals, said they showed the capacity of the Horizon system "to cause great injustice".

Lord Justice Holroyde said: "We are satisfied that the decisions not to oppose the appeals in these seven cases are realistic and appropriate, and that the appeals should succeed."

The judge said while the full reasons for their decision would be provided at a later date, "it is only right that the applicants concerned should know today that their appeals have succeeded".

Two further cases, related to the appeals of former subpostmasters Roger Allen and Alan Robinson, are opposed by the Crown Prosecution Service and will be heard.

The seven newly-cleared former subpostmasters are among hundreds of people who ran Post Office branches convicted of various offences based on evidence from the faulty IT system used by the Post Office from 2000.

More than 70 people have since had their convictions overturned, including six further ex-subpostmasters who were cleared at Southwark Crown Court on Thursday.

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