The Criminal Cases Review Commission (“CCRC”) has referred a further Post Office case to the Crown Court, taking the total of “Horizon” cases sent for an appeal by the CCRC to 60.
On 22 July 2005, Gillian Harrison, a former sub-postmistress, appeared at Newcastle Under Lyme Magistrates’ Court and pleaded guilty to false accounting in relation to an alleged cash shortfall of £1,474 at her Post Office in Dresden, Stoke on Trent. She was later sentenced to a 12-month Rehabilitation Order and ordered to pay £1,474 compensation plus £320 costs. During her interview with Post Office investigators, Mrs Harrison emphatically denied taking any money.
Mrs Harrison applied to the CCRC shortly after the Court of Appeal quashed 39 Post Office convictions in April 2021. Mrs Harrison could not appeal to the Crown Court in the usual way because she pleaded guilty in the magistrates’ court. The only way she could challenge her conviction was via the CCRC.
Following a detailed review of this case, the CCRC has decided that the reliability of data from the Horizon computer system was essential to the case against Mrs Harrison. In light of what is now known about Horizon, the CCRC has concluded that there is a real possibility that the Crown Court will set aside Mrs Harrison’s guilty plea and stay proceedings as an abuse of process.
This takes the total number of Post Office cases referred to the courts by the CCRC to 60, with a further 31 cases still under review.
By the end of May 2022, the CCRC will have written to around 260 former sub-postmasters and counter staff whose convictions may be affected to let them know how they can challenge their convictions should they wish to do so.
Anybody who thinks that their conviction might be affected can contact the CCRC directly on 0121 233 1473 or find out more at www.ccrc.gov.uk/postofficecases/.
Mrs Harrison was represented by Hudgell Solicitors in her application to the CCRC.
This press release was issued by the Communications Team, Criminal Cases Review Commission. They can be contacted by phone on: 0121 232 0900 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to Editors
- The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
- The CCRC usually receives around 1,400 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.
- The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at www.ccrc.gov.uk. The CCRC can be found on Twitter @ccrcupdate and Instagram the_ccrc