What’s on Horizon for Post Office scandal victims in the North?
The Post Office Horizon scandal has dominated news headlines in the past week following the broadcast of the ITV dramatisation Mr Bates V The Post Office. Now the UK Prime Minister is introducing a new law to exonerate those wrongly convicted subpostmasters.
More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted based on data from faulty Horizon software between 1999 and 2015.
Some people went to prison for false accounting and theft, while many were financially ruined.
Fiona Elliot told BBC Radio Foyle’s The North West Today that the whole ordeal was still raw and difficult to process.
She said that she and her husband bought the Post Office and shop in the rural village of Clady, County Tyrone, in Northern Ireland in 2005.
She hoped it would help provide financial security for her family in the future.
‘Money was just disappearing in front of us’
“Every week we were getting a lot discrepancies and shortfalls in the system,” Ms Elliot told the BBC Radio Foyle programme.
“I kept putting the money in from the shop to the Post Office to keep it right but we never had a plus, it was always minus, the money was just disappearing in front of us.”
Ms Elliott said she had contacted the Post Office a number of times and requested that they carry out an audit.
When they did this, they discovered a £6,000 shortfall, which she then had to pay straight away.
She was then suspended for a number of weeks before the Post Office later confirmed there would be no further action.
She was offered redundancy at a time when rural post offices were closing, and resigned in 2008.
Ms Elliot told BBC that she watched the ITV programme and said it was incredibly powerful, but also made her feel angry and annoyed that “so many people have suffered and lives have been destroyed”.
“There were so many people involved, thousands and many more people may come forward after the programme.”
The former sub-postmistress said she wants anyone responsible for the scandal brought before the courts to answer for it.
She said she had not been able to make peace with her own experience yet and believes holding people accountable will help her find closure.
Retail NI who represents most of the Post Offices in Northern Ireland welcomed the Prime Ministers announcement on the scandal as a step forward but will be seeking more detail from the Government.
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said:
“We hope that this announcement will at long last provide justice and financial support to impacted sub-postmasters in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. We will be seeking clarification about how these proposals will apply here”.
“I understand the strength of feeling people have after seeing ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ as they have seen the horrendous impact that this has had on thousands of postmasters across the UK.
“This has led to calls for people to boycott Post Offices, but we need to point out that this will not have any effect on Post Office Ltd, but rather harm individual postmasters who are independent franchises and may have been hurt by the scandal themselves.
“If anything, local Post Offices need your support now more than ever as we try to move on from this scandal and continue to provide services for our local communities.
“It is already tough financially for Postmasters across Northern Ireland, but they are determined to keep supporting their customers and ensure that they are here to help them with all of their day to day needs.”
“Post offices deliver vital services to the most vulnerable in communities: providing parcel and letter collection and despatch; access to cash, essential utilities plus banking and government services. Without the network, thousands of people in Northern Ireland would be cut adrift from these vital services”