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Post Office Horizon scandal left workers frightened they would be wrongly accused of stealing, says MP

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Post Office Horizon scandal left workers frightened they would be wrongly accused of stealing, says MP

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https://www.staffordshire-live.co.uk/ne ... ft-5346312

Many also left the business due to the issues after landmark

Postmasters in South Derbyshire were left frightened after colleagues caught up in the Post Office IT scandal were wrongly accused of stealing money from the till, the area's MP has said.

Some 39 sub- postmasters and mistresses were wrongly convicted of fraud and some were jailed or lost their jobs due to issues with the Horizon IT system the Post Office was using at the time. Some lost their homes and marriages fell apart under the strain as they were caught up in the scandal caused by the computer issue that wrongly showed that money was missing from the till.

The group of postmasters has since had their convictions overturned in the Court of Appeal after a lengthy court battle to clear their names. There have also been calls from union bosses for the then the CEO at the time, Paula Vennells, to be stripped of her CBE.

South Derbyshire Heather Wheeler said that she knew of sub-postmasters and mistresses who had left the business because of the issues and how they were frightened at the time that they might be wrongly accused too.

Tory MP Mrs Wheeler said: "I haven’t had a direct constituency connection to the Horizon/Post Office project but my thoughts and prayers are with those involved and wrongly caught up in this miscarriage of justice.

"I did talk to sub-postmasters and mistresses when news of the issue came to light and they were frightened and went into great detail with me how the system worked or more importantly didn’t work.

"It was a catalyst for many sub-postmasters and mistresses to leave the business. As regards whether Mrs Vennells should hand back her honour, she must search her conscience."

Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said that now a huge injustice had been corrected and that the people wrongly accused deserved the compensation.

Mr Fabricant said: "I am delighted that a huge injustice has been righted. Too many decent, honest, and hardworking postmasters and postmistresses have been punished for crimes they did not commit. They deserve the compensation they are now being offered."

Burton MP Kate Griffiths said: "I am delighted that the recent judgment has officially cleared the names of 39 former postmasters.

"The Prime Minister, too, has welcomed this outcome and has made clear that this cannot be permitted to happen again.

"I appreciate that many feel very let down and disappointed by the former chief executive of Post Office Ltd, Paula Vennells. I know there have been calls for her to be stripped of her CBE.

"Recommendations to remove honours are considered by the Honours Forfeiture Committee. Each case is considered individually, and the committee’s recommendations are submitted through the Prime Minister to The Queen. An honour can only be forfeited by decision of The Sovereign."

It comes as union bosses called the scandals 'one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history' and that there needs to be an investigation held.

Communications Workers Union (CWU) national officer for postmasters Andy Furey said: "At long last, 39 innocent people have been exonerated for crimes they did not commit. This has been one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history.

“For years, decent and upstanding members of the community have been vilified through no fault of their own. Their lives and the lives of their families have been devastated and some have even died carrying the shame of unjust criminality on their shoulders.

"The CWU is so glad that this long legal struggle has been won. But this isn’t the end of it.

"Alongside appropriate financial compensation for all the victims of this injustice, there must be an acknowledgment of the aggressive, despicable way that senior Post Office directors treated their loyal employees.

"Our union is demanding that Paula Vennells, the former CEO, be stripped of her CBE – which was awarded to her for services to the Post Office in 2019 – for her part in this scandal.

"We also demand a criminal investigation against those who put loyal, decent workers in this diabolical situation.

"Many senior figures who are complicit in this scandal will now want to run from this situation, but we must not let that happen.

"Heads must roll for the humiliation and misery inflicted on decent, upstanding people who were simply providing much-needed local services and were pillars of their local communities.

"It will be only when justice is done that the suffering of so many can be mended and these decent, loyal postmasters can get real closure."


The Post Office has responded apologizing for what it described as 'historical failures'.

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 is detailed, therefore Post Office will assess the Judgment carefully to understand what further action may be required."

What the scandal is about
Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses based on information from its newly installed computer system called Horizon. Some where jailed for false accounting and theft, many were financially ruined and have described being shunned by their communities. Some have since died. After 20 years, campaigners won a legal battle in the Court of Appeal to have their cases reconsidered, after successfully claiming that the computer system was flawed.
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