The husband of a deceased Post Office worker has seen his wife’s case posthumously referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), taking the total of CCRC “Horizon” cases sent for appeal to 62.
Mrs Joanne O’Donnell was a Sub-Post Office Assistant at North Levenshulme Post Office in Manchester who died in June 2016. In May 2007, Mrs O’Donnell had stood trial at Manchester Crown Court and was convicted of theft. She was sentenced to 7 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay £6,220 costs and £11,000 compensation.
In 2021 Mrs O’Donnell’s husband tried to appeal on his late wife’s behalf. However, he was unable to do so because the law says that posthumous appeals must be lodged within a year of the person’s death, unless they are referred by the CCRC.
Mr O’Donnell therefore contacted the CCRC. Following a detailed review of the case, the CCRC has decided that, in light of what is now known about Horizon, there is a real possibility that Mrs O’Donnell’s conviction will now be quashed. The CCRC has therefore decided to refer her conviction to the Court of Appeal.
Only the CCRC has the power to send cases like Mrs O’Donnell’s back to the Court of Appeal. The CCRC has therefore recently written to the relatives of 29 deceased Post Office workers to make them aware they can apply on behalf of a deceased relative to have their conviction reviewed and potentially sent for appeal.
By the end of July 2022 as part of its campaign to reach out to former sub-postmasters and Post Office counter staff, the CCRC has contacted just over 300 individuals whose convictions, or those of a deceased family member, may be affected.
CCRC Chairman Helen Pitcher OBE said: “Many of the convictions affected by Horizon are now over a decade old and sadly some of those who were convicted are no longer with us. I’d urge anyone who thinks that a loved one’s case might be affected to get in touch with us.”
To date, the CCRC has referred 62 Post Office cases to the appeal courts. A further 29 Post Office cases are still under review.
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/.
Mr Ian O’Donnell (acting on behalf of Mrs O’Donnell) was represented by Hudgell Solicitors in his 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