US News: Sub-postmasters win landmark case against Post Office - PressFrom - United Kingdom

US NewsSub-postmasters win landmark case against Post Office

16:25  15 march  2019
16:25  15 march  2019 Source:

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The village sub- post office in Grappenhall, Warrington, Cheshire. More than 1,000 sub - postmasters say they have been wrongly accused by the Post Office . The case could result in a payout of tens of millions to the subpostmasters, who say that a faulty IT system led to accounting shortfalls.

Sub-postmasters win landmark case against Post Office © Getty More than 550 sub-postmasters have won a case against the Post Office over an IT fiasco that saw some facing jail and bankruptcy.

The postmasters say defects in the Horizon IT system were to blame for discrepancies that meant some were wrongly accused of theft and false accounting.

The dispute has spanned a decade, but on Friday a High Court judge ruled in the postmasters' favour.

There seemed to be a "culture of secrecy and excessive confidentiality generally within the Post Office, but particularly focussed on Horizon", said the court.

Horizon was introduced between 1999 and 2000 but the six lead claimants, who represented the larger group, said it was riddled with problems.

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They accused the Post Office of not training them properly on the system, failing to investigate the cause of alleged shortfalls and misleading them about its reliability.

Sub-postmasters win landmark case against Post Office © Sky News Screen Grab Balvinder Gill says he was 'devastated' when he was told there was a £60,000 shortfall

The Post Office denies the claims and says the system worked perfectly well.

Some of those affected by the IT problem have told Sky News how they fell into depression and felt as if "I had a gun to my head" after being accused of stealing money.

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.

"Every single week I had the same problems of not being able to understand the errors that were occurring," he said.

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Over 80 sub - postmasters are interested in taking legal action against the Post Office in relation to an allegedly faulty computer system which has led to All the postmasters protested their innocence and it has been alleged that the problems could be down to the Post Office 's Horizon accounting system

2,500 sub- post offices closed between 2008 and 2009. Redundancy packages were provided from public funding (subpostmasters were paid over 20 months salary The Post Office has claimed that their system was not at fault. In spite of the court action against its sub - postmasters , which was

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"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."

The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) said the postmasters had recorded an "emphatic" win in the case.

The first trial took place at the end of last year and at least two more are expected to decide on other aspects of the case, such as potential compensation.

Alan Bates, one of the lead claimants, called it a "major step forward to achieving justice and getting to the truth of the matter".

He said: "Whatever happens from now on, this is the victory we've been fighting for - postmasters have won and Post Office will never again be able to behave as they have in the past with impunity."

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