Post Office scandal: Former sub-postmistress has wrongful conviction for embezzlement quashed

A former Post Office sub-postmistress caught up in the Horizon scandal has had her wrongful conviction quashed.

Aleid Kloosterhuis, 64, was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment after she pleaded guilty at Campbeltown Sheriff Court in 2012 to embezzling £20,000.

Her case was one of six referred to the High Court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in November 2022 over potential miscarriages of justice.

Her conviction was quashed at an Appeal Court hearing in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The court heard Ms Kloosterhuis had made "admissions" to a Post Office investigator about taking money from the Isle of Gigha branch, but prosecutors have since accepted that the case against her had been compromised which made the conviction unsafe.

Appeal judges noted that the amount Ms Kloosterhuis had admitted taking was less than the sum the Horizon system said had been stolen.

However, the investigator assigned to cover the case told prosecutors that Ms Kloosterhuis had admitted to taking the full £20,000.

Lady Dorrian, Scotland's second most senior judge, said: "These certain admissions do not accord to the amount that the Horizon system says was missing - there were significantly less.

"The Post Office investigator also provided misleading information to prosecutors to the effect that Ms Kloosterhuis made full admissions to the missing sum."

The Crown Office did not oppose the appeal.

Ravinder Naga is also appealing against conviction and the case was continued to a procedural hearing in April.

Read more:
What is the Post Office scandal?
Distressed sub-postmasters say Horizon system 'still causing mystery shortfalls'

More than 700 Post Office branch managers around the UK were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 after faulty Horizon accounting software made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

About 100 sub-postmasters in Scotland were convicted after they were wrongly accused of embezzling money in the Horizon scandal, and First Minister Humza Yousaf has pledged to get "justice" for those involved.

Many around the UK have had their convictions overturned in recent years.

When referring the cases to the High Court in 2022, the SCCRC concluded those who had pleaded guilty did so in circumstances that were, or could be said to be, clearly prejudicial to them.

Earlier this week, the SCCRC said it had referred the case of a now-deceased sub-postmistress to the High Court for determination.

The SCCRC believe Caren Lorimer may have suffered a miscarriage of justice and pleaded guilty in "circumstances that were, or could be said to be, clearly prejudicial to her".

And last week, former sub-postmaster Rab Thomson had his conviction overturned.

Prosecutions were handled by the Crown Office in Scotland, not the Post Office.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC appeared before MSPs earlier this month and claimed the Crown Office was "repeatedly misled" by the Post Office in regard to Horizon cases.

In 2013, guidance was issued to prosecutors urging them to ensure cases were not overly reliant on Horizon evidence.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has confirmed legislation will be introduced to exonerate all those wrongly convicted in England and Wales, and he has vowed to get "justice and compensation" for victims.

The Scottish government is working on its own legislation to do the same.