I was first contacted by a constituent in February 2020 who told me a horrifying tale of abuse of power by the Post Office. 16 years ago she had been a sub-postmistress provided with an accounting system called Horizon to reconcile the funds. On being unable to get the system to agree with the cash in the till she called in managers to help. They suspended her, accused her of theft, searched her house and then prosecuted her for theft and false accounting.
She was put under so much pressure by the Post Office that she ended up pleading guilty in order to avoid a prison sentence for theft. In the event she was sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to undertake 200 hours of community service. She was shamed in her village and ostracised by many friends, so that she felt unable to leave her home for two years.
It turns out that it wasn’t her that was lying but the Post Office. Having realised that the Horizon system was inaccurate, they preferred to prosecute staff for dishonesty rather than put things right. 555 brave former staff took the Post Office to court and won, but most of their compensation was swallowed up be legal fees, costs that the Post Office deliberately ran up in order to frighten people off. I have spoken up for my constituent in the House of Commons as part of a campaign to get the Government to right this wrong. Today’s announcement means that those brave, mistreated, former Post Office staff are finally on their way to full compensation.