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Horizon scandal: Former Post Office clerk cleared of fraud linked to Horizon scandal

A former Post Office worker wrongly convicted of fraud during the Horizon scandal has been cleared by the Court of Appeal.

Jacqueline Falcon, 42, was accused of reversing transactions on the faulty accounting software between December 2014 and February 2015 while working at Hadston Post Office in Northumberland.

The former Post Office clerk had been trying to cover up a shortfall of almost £1,000 in the branch's accounts which she had not taken and could not explain and was worried the missing amount would be deducted from her pay, the court heard.

She said: "I tried and I tried and I couldn't find the £1,000 anywhere. I thought of every scenario possible. It drove me mad, I went nuts thinking about it."

Ms Falcon knew the Horizon system, which could be accessed remotely, was faulty, as they "had engineers out all the time", but was unaware it could throw out accounting errors.

She said she was pregnant with her fifth child when she admitted fraud on her barrister's advice.

Ms Falcon was handed a three-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay £933.69 in compensation after pleading guilty to fraud at Newcastle Crown Court in 2015.

In London on Tuesday, senior judges ruled her conviction was unsafe because Post Office failures meant her trial was unfair.

Ms Falcon, from Hadston, watched via videolink as the ruling was made.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which had brought the fraud case against her, did not oppose her appeal.

Ms Falcon, who has suffered from depression for nine years, became almost reclusive after her conviction, unwilling to leave the house in case someone made a nasty remark or gave her a dirty look.

Her children were bullied and "some people have been really nasty to me", she said.

"It has had a massive effect on me and my family. I don't feel I have been the best mam to them because I have not been myself for such a long time. I am hoping that a weight will have been lifted and I can gradually get my old self back."

The scandal, thought to be the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history, saw hundreds of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses wrongly held responsible for accounting errors in the faulty software.

Glitches in the system meant money looked as if it was missing from many branch accounts when in fact it was not.

Many more are yet to be cleared and the government has come under fire for the compensation awarded to victims.

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 700 were prosecuted, causing many to lose their jobs, livelihoods and reputations.

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More than 100 sub-postmasters have now had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

But the affair had largely faded from public conversation until it was brought back to the fore by the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office.

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Fujitsu, the company behind Horizon, was still winning government-linked business, even after its role in the scandal became clear.

Last weekend, MPs said the company is set to have received more than £3.4bn through contracts from Treasury-linked organisations since 2019.

Fujitsu previously offered its "deepest apologies" to victims of the scandal and said it would contribute towards compensation payments for those wrongly convicted.