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."