Postmasters jailed and forced to pay millions after an IT glitch wrongly showed shortfalls should be repaid their money by the Post Office, forensic accountant claims
- A forensic accountant called for the hundreds of postmasters to be repaid
- Postmasters were forced to pay back millions of pounds after glitches in IT
- Some jailed, made bankrupt or hounded out of jobs after being called fraudsters
A forensic accountant who investigated the Post Office computer scandal has called for postmasters to be repaid their cash in full.
Hundreds of postmasters were forced to pay back millions of pounds after glitches in IT software wrongly showed a shortfall in their accounts.
Some were jailed, made bankrupt or hounded out of their jobs after being called fraudsters.
Ron Warmington, who was hired to investigate the system in 2013, said the Post Office failed to properly investigate the shortfalls.
A report by his company, Second Sight, found the ‘phantom’ losses could have been caused by the Post Office’s IT system, called Horizon.
A forensic accountant has called for the hundreds of postmasters who were forced to pay back millions of pounds after glitches in the IT software to be repaid. (Stock image)
But the Post Office refused to accept there was a problem, continued to recover debts and took the decision to fight 550 postmasters through the civil courts.
Earlier this month, the government-owned company capitulated and agreed to hand out £58million in compensation.
It also cancelled outstanding debts and proceedings to recover cash from postmasters. But after legal fees are paid, the victims are expected to receive less than £20,000 each. This means that, for many, the money will not cover their losses.
Mr Warmington said the Post Office must go further and pay back all the money handed over by postmasters.
He said: ‘When is the Post Office going to return the funds that, in effect, belonged to its postmasters? They weren’t real losses at all. They were phantom discrepancies.’
Investigation found that the Post Office failed to properly investigate the shortfalls. (Stock image)
Until now, Mr Warmington has not spoken publicly about his probe.
He added: ‘The Post Office’s profound readiness to distrust even its longest-serving postmasters, and to refuse even to consider the possibility that its own staff or its own core system could be at fault, contrasted starkly with my decades of experience in high-integrity financial institutions.’
Paula Vennells, who was Post Office chief executive from 2012 to 2019, eventually sacked Second Sight. On Monday, Mrs Vennells finally apologised for the pain her decisions caused.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Cases Review Commission is examining 34 postmasters’ convictions. Post Office chairman Tim Parker said earlier this month: ‘I, both personally and on behalf of the Post Office, sincerely apologised to those affected when we got things wrong.’
It will launch a new scheme in 2020 to compensate former postmasters not involved in court action. The Post Office was contacted again for comment.