SOME 73 Scottish sub-postmasters may have suffered a miscarriage of justice after receiving criminal convictions linked to the Post Office IT scandal.

Up to 2,500 former Post Office staff were wrongly sacked, forced to repay cash or wrongfully convicted – and some even jailed – after bosses pursued them for money 'missing' from branch accounts.

It later emerged that the shortfalls were likely to be the result of flaws in the Horizon computer system.

Now it has emerged the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has written to 73 individuals with criminal convictions potentially affected by the issues arising from the Post Office’s Horizon computer system.

The Commission is encouraging all those who may have suffered a miscarriage of justice to make contact.

HeraldScotland:

The Commission’s approach is based upon information provided to the Commission by the Post Office itself. Gerard Sinclair, the chief executive of the SCCRC, said: “We are taking the unusual step of contacting a large number of individuals because we want to work out the scale of the problem in Scotland and do whatever we can to address it. Many of those affected by Horizon will have had no prior experience of the criminal justice system. We want anyone who has been wrongly convicted to know that a remedy is available.

"We believe that there may be others affected by Horizon who aren’t on our contact list. The contact details that we have for some people may also be out of date. If you don’t receive a letter, but think that you were wrongly convicted as a result of information from Horizon, I would urge you to make contact with us.”

One former sub-postmaster Phil Cowan and his partner Fiona McGowan were falsely accused of stealing thousands of pounds. The couple were visited by their area manager after weeks of discrepancies at their branch in Parsons Green, Edinburgh, culminating in a £30,000 shortfall.

She spiralled into depression after being wrongly accused and passed away in her sleep in 2009 aged 47, after accidently overdosing herself on anti-depressants and alcohol, leaving two sons, age 12 and 14.

On Tuesday UK ministers launched a 'review', led by former High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams, to find out what happened.

But MPs and campaigners labelled it a "whitewash" and a "betrayal", and called for a full inquiry.

Alan Bates, founder of the Justice For Sub-Postmasters Alliance, said: "This is a pointless exercise, it's utterly futile, another whitewash. We certainly will not engage in this inquiry.

"It's just an internal review, it's got nothing to do with redressing what they've done in the past."

A cross-party group of more than 50 MPs has called for a full inquiry into what they called the "biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history".

The Post Office paid a £58million settlement to postmasters last year after a High Court battle.

The Court of Appeal in England is preparing to overturn 47 convictions for theft, false accounting and fraud, while the Post Office has instructed lawyers to examine a further 900 convictions.

The SCCRC letter says: "We are currently investigating possible miscarriages of justice relating to problems with the Post Office’s Horizon computer system. We think that it is possible that your case is one of those. 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. We asked Crown Office (the procurator fiscal service) to use the Post Office information to find your contact details. They helped us with that."

It explains that the Horizon system was first rolled out in some post offices around 1999 with subpostmasters using it for a wide variety of tasks, including accounting and stocktaking.

Until quite recently, it appeared that there were significant bugs in the system which could cause the system to misreport figures, it said.

"Sometimes, these errors could be substantial. It was difficult for subpostmasters to challenge errors because they did not have access to the information required to do so," the letter states.

"A number of subpostmasters raised a group legal action in the English High Court (England’s top civil court). At the end of 2019, the Post Office agreed to pay damages to members of this group. The High Court had made a number of findings that were critical of the Horizon system and the Post Office’s handling of the problems.

"Earlier this year, our counterparts, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, who serve England, Wales and Northern Ireland, concluded that a large number of Post Office convictions may be unsafe.

"They referred those cases to the Court of Appeal for England and Wales."

It goes on: "If you’re not sure whether or not your case was affected by Horizon...please don’t assume that it wasn’t. If you were wrongly accused of theft or fraud or similar offences in relation to work you did at a post office, we’d like to hear from you."