Post Office bosses ‘shamed by powerful testimony’

Postal, Post Office (PO)

Victimised former postmasters shock MPs as they speak out on first day of Parliamentary Inquiry into horizon scandal… 

“I cannot explain to anyone the effect being accused of something you haven’t done has on you,” an emotional Wendy Buffrey told the House of Commons Business Select Committee yesterday, as she detailed her ordeal at the hands of the company.

Ms Buffrey was one of over 500 postmasters who were persecuted by the Post Office due to flaws in the Horizon computer accounting system – a system which indicated financial shortfalls where none existed.

“In this lady’s case,” explains CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey, “the original ‘discrepancy’ arose from the system wrongly recording bulk numbers of stamp books. Her attempt to correct the system’s admin error created a £18,000 ‘deficit’ – a sum that then increased, to her further alarm.”

The Post Office’s historic legal powers allow it to prosecute without recourse to the Crown Prosecution Service – an authority which they have exercised in this affair, sparking accusations that Post Office chiefs failed to investigate these apparent ‘shortfalls’.

Both Ms Buffrey and another of yesterday’s attendees Tracy Felstead – a counter clerk who was actually jailed on the basis of ‘evidence’ from the Horizon system – are fighting to get their convictions overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which is due to meet on 24th March to consider if these Horizon cases should be refer back to the Court of Appeal.

Campaigner Alan Bates, who set up the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance, which co-ordinated the group legal action on behalf of those affected, told the Inquiry that the Post Office had acted “as judge, jury and executioner” and that “they always have done, in a very high-handed way.”

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey, who also gave evidence yesterday said: “We heard some extremely powerful and moving testimony, which shames the Post Office Board and it clearly shocked and appalled members of the Committee.

“In my evidence, I highlighted the fact that, to date, nobody from the senior ranks of the company has been held accountable for this outrage, none of these people have lost their jobs or been replaced from the Post Office Board.

“By comparison, hundreds of postmasters have lost their livelihoods, businesses, reputation and have suffered significant financial and personal trauma arising from this travesty of natural justice,” Andy pointed out, adding: “The sheer scale of this is absolutely horrendous – it’s a national scandal and the Post office needs to be held to account.

“It was good to read the detailed news accounts from yesterday’s opening Sessions of the Inquiry – particularly of note were the reports by the BBC’s Brian Wheeler and the Daily Mail business correspondent Tom Witherow, both of which I’d strongly urge all our members to read.

“The next Session on Tuesday March 24th will hear from both the current and previous CEOs of the Post Office – and I hope and expect that the Select Committee will not accept their excuses.”

On behalf of the CWU and of our postmaster members, Andy once again expressed his appreciation and thanks to Business Select Committee Chair Rachel Reeves MP for ordering this Inquiry and to her Committee Members.

“This Parliamentary Investigation will undoubtedly aid considerably in the establishment of a Judge-led independent public enquiry, which needs to happen sooner rather than later as those hundreds of postmasters impacted need exonerating and require closure, together with much needed compensation,” he concluded.