Former Alderley Edge subpostmaster finally has his name cleared after court appeal

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A former Alderley Edge subpostmaster has finally had his name cleared by the Court of Appeal having been falsely accused of theft.

Scott Darlington was subpostmaster in the village from 2005 to 2010 before losing his job and being prosecuted for a shortfall.

He was amongst hundreds of subpostmasters and sub-postmistresses prosecuted by the Post Office for theft and false accounting which they had not committed and was instead the consequence of a computer software system that made numerous errors.

Scott told alderleyedge.com "A discrepancy occurred in 2008 of £1700 which I had to pay back although I knew something wasn't right. Later on that year larger discrepancies occurred until Jan 2009 when I was audited, suspended and subsequently terminated. It was an absolute nightmare to say the least. I was given a 3 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years."

Whilst some of the subpostmasters were asked to make up the shortfalls, which ran into tens of thousands of pounds for some, others had criminal charges brought against them, had to pay fines, lost their homes and 39 were sent to jail.

On 1 February 2010, in the Crown Court at Chester, Mr Darlington pleaded guilty to five counts of false accounting. On 23 February 2010, he was sentenced to a total of three months' imprisonment suspended for 12 months, with a requirement to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work. Of the alleged £44,508.46 shortfall, he paid £9,000 from his own wages.

Speaking to alderleyedge.com in 2017, Scott Darlington said "This had untold consequences for me. I could not find a job for 3 and a half years. I almost lost my house. I suffered depression etc I was living off virtually no money during this time. I was headline news in the Manchester Evening News and Macclesfield Express.

"I felt everybody in Alderley believed I had been stealing and was so embarrassed by that. I am now living in Bollington and working at last. But this nightmare has continued for 9 years and is finally coming to a conclusion."

A spokesperson for Nexus Chambers, who represented the former Alderley Edge subpostmaster said "Scott Darlington lost his job and good name. He was shamed by local press coverage and was unable to get another job for 3 and half years because of this conviction. He suffered weight loss and stress, his family suffered because of his inability to work, he was unable to provide for his child as he would have wanted. He has had to deal with this for years as he fought to clear his name."

The Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of 39 former subpostmasters and sub-postmistresses on Friday, 23rd April. Referring to Mr Darlington's case the court ruled "His convictions are unsafe. Notwithstanding his guilty pleas, we quash his convictions on all five counts."

Responding to the ruling, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I welcome the Court of Appeal's decision to overturn the convictions of 39 former sub-postmasters in the Horizon dispute, an appalling injustice which has had a devastating impact on these families for years. Lessons should and will be learnt to ensure this never happens again."

Post Office Chairman Tim Parker said "The Post Office is extremely sorry for the impact on the lives of these postmasters and their families that was caused by historical failures.

"Post Office stopped prosecutions soon after its separation from Royal Mail a decade ago and has throughout this appeals process supported the overturning of the vast majority of convictions.

"We are contacting other postmasters and Post Office workers with criminal convictions from past private Post Office prosecutions that may be affected, to assist them to appeal should they wish. Post Office continues to reform its operations and culture to ensure such events can never happen again.

"The full ruling by the Court of Appeal judges published today is detailed, therefore Post Office will assess the Judgment carefully to understand what further action may be required."

Post Office Chief Executive, Nick Read said: "I am in no doubt about the human cost of the Post Office's past failures and the deep pain that has been caused to people affected.

"Many of those postmasters involved have been fighting for justice for a considerable length of time and sadly there are some who are not here to see the outcome today and whose families have taken forward appeals in their memory. I am very moved by their courage.

"The quashing of historical convictions is a vital milestone in fully and properly addressing the past as I work to put right these wrongs as swiftly as possible and there must be compensation that reflects what has happened.

"In addition, since arriving at the Post Office 18 months ago, my focus has been on resetting the culture at the Post Office and forging a substantive partnership with our postmasters. We are determined that they must come first in everything we do because without them there is no Post Office. We must transform the Post Office so that it can continue to provide essential services in local communities across the UK."

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

David Carey
Saturday 24th April 2021 at 9:57 am
Scott, I would disagree that everybody automatically thought you were guilty. It was obvious you were a kind hearted postmaster who always went out of your way to help people. Such a travesty and nightmare for you to have to go through such an ordeal over a long time. The Post Office should be hanging its head in shame when it seems they knew something was wrong with their I.T systems. The Post Office needs to dig deep into their pockets and pay huge amounts for clearly ruining many peoples lives. Here's the question 'Why all those years ago was it not very strange that suddenly hundreds of post office staff were found to be being dishonest', answer they did not have faith in their own people.
Tony Haluradivth
Saturday 24th April 2021 at 1:54 pm
Scott we in our househd NEVER thought you were guilty. When they let you go my wife was happy to exclaim very loudly in the PO that she thought the treatment of you was appalling. You are such a charming man and always had a kind word for our grandson who was a Tot in 2006. We felt a great loss in the village when you were forced out.
One of ypur colleagues was driven to suicide elsewhere in the country. Lady Fennel of the PO and others in seniority are gulty of a coverup according to the Times today. They did not wish the real truth of the computer glitch to come out as it would have affected the PO profits and SENIOR BONUSES and seemed happy for you and other Postmasters/Postmistresses to be the "fall guys". Fennel is a Christian Lay Preacher whp perhaps needs to read her bible and atone fast. A spell in prison would be good and stripping of the title and MBE plys a charge of Corporate Manslaughter. It is heartrending to read of the treatment that you and others endured
Duncan Herald
Saturday 24th April 2021 at 5:22 pm
What is the compensation amount for a ruined life?

Did it not strike the Royal Mail as at all strange that suddenly there was a 'epidemic' of post office theft?
Scott Darlington
Saturday 24th April 2021 at 8:21 pm
I am very touched by your comments Thankyou very much. It really was a nightmare. I really enjoyed being part of the village I really did. so it was so embarrassing to be in the situation that unfolded. The Post office have a special power to prosecute without involving the police or CPS so they took me straight to crown court. I had to plead guilty because I had technically committed an offence by signing off the accounts. So I was cornered. If I had pleaded not guilty I would have gone to prison for 3 months and I couldn’t do that to my 7 year old daughter.

So I did the community service and started The slow fight back. Utterly amazing that this finally went over the line yesterday at the Appeal courts.

The damage is done but it’s nice to be officially vindicated

I’m just a boring run of the mill member of society again !

Thank you for remembering this episode and it’s lovely to know you didn’t feel I was guilty.
David Hadfield
Saturday 24th April 2021 at 9:31 pm
I've not forgotten the many times I'd visited your Post Office, Scott.
You were always such a pleasant chap and always cheerful.
What a trauma it must have been for you in all these years, knowing you were innocent but knowing the Post Office didn't believe you.

At last, truth prevails, but not without its upsetting consequences all these years.
Well Done Scott, at last, after all these years of upset and embarrassment !
YOU HAVE WON !!
Duncan Herald
Monday 26th April 2021 at 12:47 pm
Scott,
do not be too magnanimous; 'they' treated you so very badly and if 'they' are not held to account then 'they' will no doubt do the same again, to the next poor souls!
Margaret Seddon
Tuesday 27th April 2021 at 2:46 pm
I was very sorry when you left and was sure something was not right.
You were always such a pleasant and helpful person.
So glad you have some peace of mind at last, and I hope it will be followed by some monetary contribution in time
Allan Lunt
Tuesday 27th April 2021 at 2:56 pm
Scott,
The Post Office NEEDS people like you.

Hopefully lessons will have been learned !

Best wishes for the future.
Kristina Hulme
Tuesday 27th April 2021 at 3:13 pm
Scott you were a wonderful postmaster and Irene , Tony and I whilst running Travel by Design were indebted to you being in the village especially at Christmas Time when sending over 800
individually stamped cards annually!
We hope you enjoy your life now whilst restoring your faith in human nature.
Best Wishes from The Hulme Family
Pamela Scoltock
Tuesday 27th April 2021 at 3:30 pm
Scott. Justice at Last! You were our best
ever postmaster. Nobody can take that away from you. Good luck for the future to you and your family.
Peter Wright
Tuesday 27th April 2021 at 4:56 pm
Hi Scott
I remember you very well from when I had the garage on Trafford road and remember very well the consensus of opinion at the time was that it would turn out to be an injustice, and so it turns out to be so, now I hope that the Post Office and those responsible are held to account and you are compensated sufficiently to make amends, if that’s possible! and also those responsible are in turn prosecuted for gross incompetence.
Stephen Higham
Wednesday 28th April 2021 at 11:11 am
Dear Scott, when I heard of your problems with the post office I thought it very out of character as you had always been very polite and helpful. It is shameful that the officers at the Post Office would not admit their mistakes. Anyone familiar with accounts would ask the question, "where did all the money wrongly debited to postmaster end up", there needs to be a credit somewhere in the Post office accounts - A pocket somewhere my suspicious mind thinks!

Don't hide in Bollington come over to Alderley Edge.
Roy Hall
Wednesday 28th April 2021 at 6:03 pm
Scott, Great that you have replied to your ex Customers, I also was one of them! When all this blew up and you suddenly disappeared, when I heared it was a Computer problem I knew that THEY had made a mistake. I do hope that you receive adequate financial compensation, however what you receive will NEVER make amends for what you and your family have gone through. Keep well and battle on. Roy Hall
Scott Darlington
Thursday 29th April 2021 at 7:49 am
Thankyou everybody. I really means a lot to me that you were on my side. I felt like the village pariah. After all I was convicted in Chester Crown Court so it did appear in press and I thought everybody would be bound to think I had my hands in the till !
I had a great time being the postmaster and met so many great people. It’s a lovely place and I never had anybody horrible to deal with. Apart from Post Office Ltd who turned out to be absolutely appalling. Thankyou for taking the time to write very kind and generous comments.
Diana Bullock
Thursday 29th April 2021 at 10:38 am
I agree with all the lovely comments that have been made about you, Scott. I always found you to be very friendly and helpful. I couldn't believe you were guilty of what you had been accused of. I wish you all the very best for the future.
Charley Jennings
Sunday 2nd May 2021 at 9:53 am
Scott, I can not even begin to imagine what you have been through in the last 11 years, just a massive well done from me to you for surviving it all. I left the village in 2010 and returned 4 years ago and as soon as I got back I missed you! It is lovely to see all the comments of support on here for you, take them all in, because it is obvious nobody thought ill of you and everyone thinks the Post Office is a right set of idiots! (& yes that is putting it politely). I am so glad you have been able to start to rebuild a life and will continue to do so. I wish you & your family all the best for the future in whatever you do, lots & lots of respect. Charlotte

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