The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has written to 73 former Subpostmasters suggesting they might want to request the SCCRC reviews their criminal convictions.
According to the BBC a letter has gone out to 73 addressees stating:
"We think that it is possible that your case is one [where Horizon evidence was used]. If it is, we would like to make sure that you have the chance to apply to us. The Post Office identified your case as a Scottish prosecution during the relevant period (from 1999) in which they may have been involved."
According to the chap from the SCRCC quoted on the BBC website:
"We're talking about 73 cases which may be affected - not definitely - but we are fairly sure the data is not complete, so it's entirely possible there may be other people involved. The 73 individuals, so far as we know, were people convicted in Scotland. There's a whole range of convictions involved, but in the main they were for fraud and false accounting. Some of them suffered penalties of imprisonment, the majority received community sentences and fines."
This means I have been labouring under two misapprehensions for the last ten years.
a) there weren't very many Subpostmaster prosecutions in Scotland
b) all private prosecutions have to be scrutinised by the Procurator Fiscal (the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service).
I thought point a) because I had tried to find some cases in Scotland and couldn't.
I thought point b) might be the reason for point a) ie because the Post Office knew it would have to get its prosecutions past the Procurator Fiscal it didn't often try. Or it did try and the Procurator Fiscal told the Post Office on various occasions where to stick it.
Turns out both presumptions were wrong.
a) 73 convictions in Scotland where Horizon evidence may have been used is a lot.
b) the Procurator Fiscal doesn't give the nod to private prosecutions, it takes them on.
Not knowing this till today is just plain ignorance on my part, but what it means is that all Subpostmaster prosecutions in Scotland (which were referred directly by the Post Office to the SCRCC) were handled by the state - and therefore had some kind of external scrutiny.
I must admit to still being a little confused by the statement from the SCRCC about false accounting as I was led to believe that in Scotland there is no crime called false accounting - it falls under the wider catch-all of fraud.
Anyway - the fact the SCRCC has taken the step of contacting all 73 people referred to it by the Post Office is interesting. It could be that 72 of those convictions are bang to rights. I still haven't heard from or spoken to any Subpostmaster with a criminal conviction from a Scottish court who is claiming miscarriage of justice. I have been made aware today that one such person definitely exists, but cannot yet bring themselves to go public.
In a way that doesn't matter. What does matter - to paraphrase someone quite close to this story - is that "if the Post Office have sent one innocent person, just one, to prison, they should be crawling towards them on their knees to beg their forgiveness."
Maybe this letter from the SCCRC will provoke someone to come forward. Either to the media, to the SCCRC, or to both.
If you are in receipt of the SCCRC's communication and think it's time to tell people what happened to you, please get in contact via the form on this website. All information you send will be treated in absolute confidence until such time as you feel comfortable and ready.
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