post office bill

The Post Office could be forced to pay more than £1bn to 1,300 postmasters that are claiming to be wrongly-accused of theft.

A group court case of the first 523 postmasters begins next month. They allege that they have been blamed for serious accounting errors made by the company’s Horizon computer system since 1999, which resulted in many losing their jobs and being forced to pay back thousands of pounds, while some were imprisoned.

If successful, the first case could lead to £500m in damages being awarded to those affected, with a similar amount expected for the second case.

According to Communications Workers Union postmaster branch secretary Mark Baker, the court case could open the floodgates to a “PPI-like claims system”. He added: “Any overturn of convictions will have serious ramifications for not just the Post Office, but the British justice system.”

Baker told Retail Express that the Post Office may require Government aid in order to make the payments.

The Post Office strongly denies any wrongdoing.

A Post Office spokesperson said the Post Office is defending the case: “As we said when the group litigation order was made by the court earlier this year, we welcome it as offering the best opportunity for the matters in dispute to be heard and resolved.

“We will be continuing to address the allegations through the court’s processes and will not otherwise comment on litigation while it is ongoing.”

Lynn Eccles, director of communications at the National Federation of SubPostmasters, added: “We welcome the court’s scrutiny of this matter. It is inappropriate to comment further ahead of the case being heard.”

Tracey's Story

Former Yetminster shop and post office owner Tracey Merritt told Retail Express her case against the Post Office is about “getting my life back and clearing my name”.

When Tracey’s Horizon computer showed thousands of pounds missing from her books, she claimed the Post Office says she stole the money and began a criminal investigation against her. However, Tracey says the missing money is an error made by the computer system.

She alleges the investigation led to several deeply upsetting incidents, including being locked in the secure area of the post office “for hours”.

Describing another incident, she claims: “They told me what prison they were going to send me to. They said if I didn’t admit it they would go after my daughter.”

The Post Office dropped the charges, but she says the attempt destroyed her reputation.

“I got spat at in the street, I got abuse, I got turned down for jobs. People will stop and say to me in the streets ‘once a thief, always a thief’.”

Tracey lost her shop, suffers from stress-induced shingles and owes £75,000 in debt.

“I have days where I’m completely destroyed,” she adds, “but I’ll continue to fight because I want my name cleared.”

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Jack Courtez
Jack is the news editor at Retail Express and is using betterRetailing.com to give retailers the latest information on changes in store and beyond. Got a story or comment? Speak to Jack at @JackCourtezRE or jack.courtez@newtrade.co.uk or 020 7689 3371

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3 COMMENTS

  1. so the post office had 1300 people who were all fiddling them? seems rather a lot, maybe they should save some money and admit it all now

  2. my dear brother Julian aged 67 years died last year -he was one of the sub-postmasters who was falsely accused of fraud -he was a good man ,who was dearly loved and now is sadly missed by all of us -I can`t wait for Paula Vennels et al to perhaps spend a certain amount of time behind bars , forego their pensions , be held to public ridicule , & perhaps personally reimburse all those involved .
    This is a woman of the church who by her negligence and that of her colleagues will perhaps bring her family some of the colossal hurt that we have suffered over a number of years.
    Sadly this will not return my brother to his wife , daughter and 3 other brothers -what more can I say.?

  3. The way they treated sub postmasters was appalling. I would not use post office again. I banked one cheque with them for over £1000 and was credited. With well over £2300. No wonder the accounts cannot balance on this toy town bank.
    My brother in law seeked help from the federation of sub post masters. They were about as much use as a chocolate fire guard. When you see them attending the House of Commons debate on this well !! You need to wonder who is looking after who.

    It’s all a terrible sitauation with people’s lives ruined. If the government have to bail them out Who loses out again the tax payer. The heads of Pol should be sacked and still held to account.

    I am so glad it is going to high court on 19/10.

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