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Post Office scandal as 'dodgy' IT system STILL causing errors worth GBP1million

08 Mar 2020, 08:50

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/p ... m-21651857

EXCLUSIVE: The dodgy IT system that led to suicide, bankruptcy and unsafe theft convictions among Post Office workers is still causing ­errors o up to £1million.

The dodgy IT system that led to suicide, bankruptcy and unsafe theft convictions among Post Office workers is still causing ­errors of up to £1million.

Staff were blamed for huge shortfalls in their accounts triggered by glitches in a computer program called Horizon.

Hundreds of postmasters and cashiers were jailed, sacked and financially ruined in a scandal spanning 20 years.

The Post Office furiously denied its system was at fault but finally agreed to pay £57.8million compensation to 550 people in a landmark High Court case last December.

Post Office whistleblower Mark Baker (Image: Roland Leon/Sunday Mirror)

Since then at least 24 new incidents have been sent to its complex case team by sub-postmasters disputing losses.

Two sub-postmasters contacted union officials last week to report unexplained discrepancies of about £1,000.

Our investigation also reveals how sub-postmasters are being left out of pocket because they can’t challenge shortfalls of under £150 – even if the IT system is to blame.

Some who have ­disputed larger amounts are in limbo as the Post Office stalls on ­resolving the cases.

Officials are trying to ­persuade ­others who have lost ­everything to settle out of court for paltry amounts.

One sub-postmaster, Martin Griffiths, took his life after Horizon left a £61,000 hole in his accounts.

His devastated sister Jayne Caveen, 58, from Birkenhead, Merseyside, said: “A bloody faulty computer system killed my brother. It is time to really expose the Post Office for ruining countless lives of innocent people.

“Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been handed to the Post Office – money which does not belong to them – because of a computer glitch.”

Martin died in 2013, four years after he started experiencing problems with Horizon at his Chester branch.

Horizon was installed 20 years ago yet, still, one union official receives several complaints a week about it.

Documents show the system wrongly suggested a £480 rent payment processed by one sub-postmaster last weekend was worth £1,018,186.

A clerk noticed the error because of an alert which is generated on ­transactions worth more than £1,000.

Mark Baker, from the Communication Workers Union, said: “What if the amount had been £999 and it was not spotted by the clerk?


Horizon system
"This would have gone through and the postmaster would have been short by that amount. I get a message about a Horizon issue on ­average every other day.

"It wasn’t ­designed successfully and it can’t deal with the banking transactions and ­postage that some post offices process.

“If you were starting afresh today you wouldn’t use it. But the Post Office has an obsession with cutting costs.

“They won’t pay for a dedicated ­broadband line to run Horizon. They insist on all of their other kit sharing that line. You have lots of devices chattering down the same line – the burglar alarm, the phone pay station, lottery machine.

“Any one of these can knock Horizon out. We need to have a debate about what technology there is on the market and if it can replace Horizon.”

Boris Johnson has demanded a probe into the scandal and MPs will this month question bosses and ex-ministers who were involved in commissioning Horizon.

Fifty sub-postmasters and cashiers are having convictions reviewed – all related to supposedly missing cash.

They include Tracey Felstead, 37, who was jailed in 2001 for theft and false ­accounting after she was accused of taking £11,500 from a branch in Camberwell, South London. She spent three months in HMP Holloway before being released on a tag but has always maintained her innocence.

Tracey, who now lives in Telford, Shropshire, has had mental health problems since and has tried to take her life twice.

She said: “The trauma of going to prison at 19 has affected my whole life.

“I can’t trust anyone and my ­marriage broke down because of the stress of trying to clear my name.

“Even when you explain what has happened, some people still think you are a thief.”

Tracey’s MP Lucy Allan said: “We are told the Post Office has learned lessons but it is not possible to learn until there is acceptance of past ­mistakes and they are not there yet.”

The Post Office said: “We are ­making extensive improvements to support all postmasters and staff.

“We are committed to resolving past events fairly.

"We will be ­launching a scheme for postmasters who were not part of the group ­litigation settlement who believe they have experienced shortfalls ­related to the computer system.”

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