Sunderland sub-station that ‘lost home and business’ cleared after wrongful conviction in Horizon scandal

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Christopher and Pauline Stonehouse before the Royal Courts of Justice in London, after former Deputy Minister Ms Stonehouse was cleared by the Court of Appeal after being wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal. Picture date: Monday November 22, 2021.

On Monday, three senior magistrates overturned the convictions of seven convicted people on the basis of evidence from the faulty computer system used by the post from 2000.

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

Ms Stonehouse said she felt “overwhelmingly relieved” after her convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

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Former deputy masters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, to challenge their convictions for offenses such as false accounting and theft, following a series of overturned convictions following the scandal Post Office Horizon. Picture date: Monday November 22, 2021.

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

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

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

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

Ms Stonehouse said she wanted “an apology with my name on it” from the post for her case.

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

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

The former postal workers had been accused of offenses including theft and false accounts linked to lost earnings of several tens of thousands of pounds.

Their appeals received no opposition from the Post Office, which accepted that evidence of the reliability of the system developed by Fujitsu was “essential” to their beliefs.

The court heard Ms Stonehouse, who pleaded guilty to six counts of false accounting in 2008 after suffering a loss of earnings of more than £ 15,000, said she had faced unexplained discrepancies in her branch in Sunderland since the Horizon system was installed and that she had “no faith” in it at the time.

Several of the former postal workers had tried to cover the shortfall with their own money, the Court of Appeal heard.

Kate O’Raghallaigh, representing five of those who appealed unopposed, said they had shown the ability of the Horizon system “to cause great injustice.”

Lord Justice Holroyde said: “We are convinced that the decisions not to oppose the appeals in these seven cases are realistic and appropriate, and that the appeals should be successful.”

The judge said that although full reasons for their decision would be provided at a later date, “it is only fair that the claimants concerned know today that their appeals have been successful.”

Two other cases, related to the appeals of former deputy masters Roger Allen and Alan Robinson, are being challenged by the Crown Prosecution Service and will be heard.

The seven newly licensed former deputy masters are among hundreds of people who ran postal branches found guilty of various offenses on the basis of evidence from the faulty computer system used by the Post from 2000 onwards.

More than 70 people have since had their convictions overturned, including six other former deputy masters who were cleared Thursday at Southwark Crown Court.

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