Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

‘It is too late for Fiona, it is too late for justice’: Partner on how acquittals in Post Office fraud scandal have come too late to save victim wrongly accused

Fiona McGowan, pictured left, who was falsely accused and died after an accidental overdose
Fiona McGowan, pictured left, who was falsely accused and died after an accidental overdose

A former sub-postmaster whose partner died after being falsely accused of stealing thousands of pounds in the Post Office IT scandal has welcomed the clearing of dozens of wrongly convicted staff – but says, for his partner, it is too late for justice.

Phil Cowan’s late partner Fiona McGowan died after spiralling into depression while waiting to appear in court after being wrongly accused of theft as accounting systems falsely suggested money was missing from post offices.

Court of Appeal judges on Friday quashed the convictions of 39 former postmasters after one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice. They were convicted of stealing money, and some imprisoned, after the Post Office installed a faulty computer system – called Horizon – into branches.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has confirmed it is investigating the convictions of five Scots sub-postmasters.

Fiona, who along with her partner Phil, were accused of stealing £30,000 from their Post Office branch in Parsons Green, Edinburgh. The stress of the investigation sent Fiona, 47, into a deep depression. She died in her sleep in 2009 aged 47, after an accidental overdose of anti-depressants and alcohol, leaving two sons, aged 12 and 14.

Phil, who now lives in Thailand, said: “Fiona may well be still alive today if she had not been facing court for false accusations of theft and died before clearing her name.”

He welcomed Friday’s Court of Appeal decision to overturn the convictions of 39 sub-postmasters, but said: “For Fiona, all of this comes much too late. For her, there can be no justice.”

Our front page on the tragedy of Fiona McGowan

Unknown to her, the Post Office charges had already been dropped before her death – but she was never told. “We only found out much later – via a Freedom of Information request while campaigning with other sub-postmasters that the case against her was withdrawn but the Post Office did not have the decency – nor inclination – to inform us.”

Friday’s Court of Appeal judgment was met with cheers from ex-postmasters outside court and was hailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The clearing of the names of 39 people follows the overturning of six other convictions in December. This means more people have been affected than in any other miscarriage of justice in the UK. But more cases could follow with 22 under review in England and five in Scotland. There were more than 700 prosecutions based on Horizon evidence. Last September, the SCCRC wrote to 73 former sub-postmasters potentially affected by problems with the Horizon IT system.

Last week, it said: “The commission has now received five applications from individuals with criminal convictions potentially affected by issues arising from the Horizon computer system and claiming that they have therefore suffered a miscarriage of justice.

“There have also been a number of other enquiries which may lead to subsequent applications to the commission in the future. A stage one review of these five applications has been undertaken and the commission has decided to accept all of these cases to stage two, where a full review will be undertaken.”

© SYSTEM
Phil Cowan

It is understood that applications from the families of convicted sub-postmasters who have since died would be considered.

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,” he added.

“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.”