Harm, injustice & technology : reflections on the UK's subpostmasters' case

Maguire, Mike and Renaud, Karen (2023) Harm, injustice & technology : reflections on the UK's subpostmasters' case. The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice. ISSN 0265-5527 (https://doi.org/10.1111/hojo.12533)

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One of the more striking recent miscarriages of justice was perpetrated by the UK's Post Office when subpostmasters and subpostmistresses were prosecuted for fraud that actually arose from malfunctioning software. Over 700 were victimised, losing homes and livelihoods. We first use a zemiological lens to examine the harms caused by these events at both a first and second‐order range – referred to as ‘ripples’. Yet, the zemiological analysis, while useful in identifying the personal harms suffered by postmasters, is less successful in associating with some of the wider costs – especially to the justice system itself. Additional tools are required for identifying how technology might be culpable in the damage that unfolded. We use a technological injustice lens to augment the zemiological analysis, to reveal how and why technology can harm, especially when appropriate checks and balances are missing, and naïve belief in the infallibility of technological solutions prevails.


Maguire, Mike and Renaud, Karen ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7187-6531;