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Depression, bankruptcy and jail: Why we sued the Post Office

15 Mar 2019, 14:38

https://news.sky.com/story/depression-b ... e-11623616

Hundreds of sub-postmasters have won a landmark victory over claims an IT fiasco saw them wrongly accused of theft and false accounting.

In an historic lawsuit, more than 550 former post office workers had taken legal action at the High Court in a dispute that has spanned more than a decade.

They said a faulty computer system was to blame for accounting discrepancies which resulted in some facing criminal charges, bankruptcy and even jail.

As the High Court handed down a landmark judgment in their favour after a five-week class-action trial, here are some of their stories:

Seema Misra was jailed in 2010 after being found guilty of stealing £75,000 from the post office she ran in West Byfleet, Surrey.


Her conviction is now being reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a possible miscarriage of justice.

I was sent to prison on my son's 10th birthday. I was eight weeks' pregnant at the time.

We had been trying for another baby for seven or eight years so it should have been the happiest moment for us. Instead, prison was the worst experience of my life.

I thought about killing myself - the one reason I didn't was because I was carrying a baby.

I feared for my baby's health because some of the inmates self-harmed, which left blood all over the place.

I couldn't believe I'd ended up there. We had invested our hard-earned money into the post office business and we couldn't see where it was disappearing.

We knew we were entering transactions correctly. It was just a complete nightmare.

We are hard-working people and I always believed that if you've done nothing wrong, nothing wrong will happen. But we lost our property, our business, we lost everything.

In the end, I was sentenced to 15 months and released early for good behaviour. When my baby was delivered in hospital, I had a tag on which was humiliating.

Since coming out of prison, I've been unable to find work because my conviction comes up when I apply jobs. My family has suffered because of that.

After finding out I was not alone, I felt I had been fooled. Now I truly believe I will get my name cleared.

Jo Hamilton was charged with theft and false accounting after a £36,000 shortfall was discovered at her post office in South Warnborough, Hampshire in 2006.

She agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of false accounting and was given a 12-month community order.

Her conviction is now being reviewed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission for a possible miscarriage of justice.

My decision to buy my local post office would change my life forever.

Everything was fine until electronic payments were introduced. When deficits started occurring, I was ordered to repay the money.

I re-mortgaged my house and put thousands of pounds into a safe but the shortfalls kept coming. I felt backed into a corner and completely terrified of my situation.

I was eventually suspended by the Post Office, interviewed under caution and charged with theft.

After going through two years of hell, just before my fifth court appearance, the Post Office offered a plea bargain to my lawyers.

They said if I pleaded guilty to false accounting and paid the £36,000 shortfall, they would drop the theft charge.

I felt I had a gun held to my head and had no choice.

I was sentenced to a year's supervision order and now I have a criminal record which I'm trying to get overturned.

Gradually with modern communication, I have learnt of others in similar situations.

Having battled through parliament and select committee hearings, we are now at a place where we hope to get justice.

Balvinder Gill ran a post office in Oxford in 2003 before he was ordered to repay a massive shortfall which he says led to bankruptcy and depression.

I was proud to become a sub-postmaster at 24 years old - but what occurred next was nothing short of a nightmare chapter.

Every single week I had the same problems of not being able to understand the errors that were occurring. The figures on the system never matched the physical stock and cash.

After six months, auditors arrived at my office and told me I couldn't enter the counter.

They said, by their calculations, I was approximately £60,000 down. I couldn't stand up. I was devastated.

My family argued with me and said: "You must have done something wrong." It tore us apart.

My contract was terminated but I wasn't criminally charged because there was no evidence that I had taken the money.

I was left broke and, to add further to my woes, I was sent a bill for £108,000.

I went into a severe state of depression. I found jobs temping at minimum wage but I soon started taking payday loans and high interest credit to repay the money.

I suffered in silence for many years and, in the end, I filed for bankruptcy.

I'm now divorced and have lost everything after being sectioned following a complete mental collapse.

The effects of the whole ordeal have been catastrophic.


Gary Brown was a sub-postmaster in Rawcliffe, East Yorkshire, but left after a £32,000 shortfall emerged.

I hated balancing days at the post office because I knew what was going to be the result - a shortfall.

I felt sick worrying about how much it was going to be. One of the worst things was thinking I'm by myself with no back-up and no help.

When I discovered a figure of £32,000 had vanished, I was physically sick.

I began to shake and rock uncontrollably in my chair, I walked about the house in a blind panic.

I called my union rep who checked everything and agreed there was a shortfall of about £32,000.

I was suspended and later interviewed under caution but, after a few weeks, I was informed that I wasn't being prosecuted.

The past few years have been hard; on myself, my wife and my family.

I've suffered a breakdown and another life changing ailment thought to have been brought on by stress.

We lost our home, business, health and our good name. All in all, it really has been a nightmare.


Wendy Martin ran a post office in York but left over shortfalls she blames on the company's computer system.

When I became a postmistress I borrowed money from the bank and ploughed my life savings into it to secure my future.

Unfortunately the outcome had the opposite impact.

Each day my figures would vary - from being thousands of pounds wrong one minute, to hundreds the next.

I argued every day and every night to top bosses at the Post Office but struggled to get engineers to visit. I tried everything I could to sort things out.

I was forced to close after spending nearly two years trying to get things put right. I could no longer work on a faulty system, paying financial penalties for doing so.

Had I not closed, I'm sure the stress would have killed me.

Since closing, I've been left unable to pay my debts and my credit is now ruined. I'm unemployed, suffer depression and I'm awaiting counselling for stress and anxiety.

I closed the business rather than ending up with a criminal record but I've lost everything else in the process.

:: The Post Office has previously said an independent examination of its computer system found no systemic issues.

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