News Writer Paris Williams reports on the Post Office Scandal

A law undergraduate with a passion for reading, writing, the guitar and powerlifting.

The Post Office scandal is considered one of the most significant miscarriages of justice in the history of the UK.

The scandal desecrated the lives of more than 900 sub-postmasters, who were wrongly accused of stealing from the Post Office. Consequently, many innocent individuals found themselves imprisoned for fraud, facing bankruptcy as they used their own funds to cover the apparent losses, and suffering severe psychological effects.

In 2019, a civil case shed light on the scandal, and an ITV drama titled ‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’ brought the victims’ realities to the forefront. This has led to growing calls for accountability and prosecution of those responsible for this miscarriage of justice.

The root cause of the scandal lies in a faulty software technology known as “Horizon,” developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu and adopted by the Post Office in 1999. This system proved susceptible to bugs and numerous errors, leading to incorrect displays of missing funds in post office branches. Despite sub-postmasters’ complaints about these system issues, the Post Office initiated prosecutions against 700 individuals between 1999 and 2015, with many more facing trials in subsequent years.

Protesters and former sub-postmasters have consistently called for accountability, but to date, no one from the Post Office has been held responsible for the scandal.

In 2019, a civil case shed light on the scandal, and an ITV drama titled ‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’ brought the victims’ realities to the forefront

The detrimental effects of this scandal have been made evident through the victims’ own words. Vipin Patel, a former sub-postmaster recalls a visit from Post Office auditors, ‘I went upstairs and said ‘God, I want to die, I don’t want to live anymore’ – because I knew the repercussions of this were going to be catastrophic and disastrous.’ Mr. Patel was charged with stealing £75,000 from the Horspath Post Office and sentenced to an 18-week suspension order. He had exhausted every means possible to ‘balance the books’ before being accused of theft due to errors in the Horizon system.

The victims have expressed their repulsion about the scandal and lack of accountability. Nicki Archer, a former sub-postmaster, explained she believes the Post Office to be ‘corrupt to the core.’

She states, ‘It’s [been] 24 years, and I’ve never, ever seen any decent behaviour coming from them’, while demanding that Post Office staff involved in the scandal inquiry be held accountable.

The government has publicly outlined its plans for a blanket exoneration of the innocent sub-postmasters, along with a ‘swifter’ compensation payout of at least £600,000 for those wrongfully convicted and £75,000 for those who faced financial hardship but were not prosecuted.

Alex Chalk, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice, has emphasised that ‘we [the government] must right this wrong quickly, ensuring those convicted can be fairly and swiftly compensated.’

While compensation is an essential remedial action in these circumstances, many, like Nicki Archer, feel that it can never fully rectify the life-changing effects of the scandal. This sentiment appears to be widely shared among the victims, who seek both compensation and accountability for the injustices they have endured.

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