Kenton postmaster welcomes arbitration scheme

A former subpostmaster who ran the Post Office in North Kenton has welcomed mediation plans for complaints about computer system glitches

Ex-postmaster Tom Brown of South Stanley
Ex-postmaster Tom Brown of South Stanley

A former subpostmaster accused by his bosses of stealing £85,000 has welcomed the formation of an independent mediation scheme for complaints about a controversial computer system.

Tom Brown staged a five-year battle to clear his name after the Post Office blamed him for the disappearance of the money.

But he said a computer glitch in the new Horizon system was responsible and the Post Office eventually offered no evidence.

Now Mr Brown, who ran the post office in North Kenton, Newcastle, says the mediation scheme announced yesterday for former colleagues in a similar position is a step in the right direction.

Mr Brown, 67, now of South Stanley, County Durham, said the company had been forced into announcing the scheme by the pressure group Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance.

He said: “There has been a lot of pressure from the Alliance and MPs, and that’s why they have made this announcement, but I would still like them to come out in public and say there was something wrong with the Horizon system.

“The fact they have agreed to the mediation service is welcome but a lot of the details have to be worked out.”

Mr Brown, who is still in dispute with the Post Office, has received a complaint form under the new scheme.

It follows an announcement by the Post Office that the scheme would be set up to address the concerns of some subpostmasters in cases which require further resolution. It is thought there are 100 cases in which staff claim they were accused by the Post Office for discrepancies but blame the Horizon system.

Angela van den Bogerd, Post Office head of partnerships, said: “The Post Office is committed to addressing any outstanding concerns among subpostmasters swiftly and transparently.

“As part of this commitment, we set up an independent review which recently published an interim report which found that, so far, there was no evidence of any systemic issues with Horizon, but did identify some further improvements we could make to our training and support arrangements, which we are taking forward.

“In addition, the independent mediation scheme we are announcing today will provide an effective way to assess and address any outstanding cases where subpostmasters feel they have been unfairly treated.”

In Mr Brown’s case, investigators claimed there was a cash shortage of �85,426 in the till after he bought the adjacent Finlays newsagent in 2007.

Police launched an investigation into the claims but, in December 2011, officers told him there would be no criminal charges.

A legal team from The Post Office Ltd pursued two charges of false accounting through the civil courts as Mr Brown maintained the missing cash was down to a fault in the Horizon system.

But, just months before he was due to appear at Newcastle Crown Court, the grandfather-of-three was told the prosecution would be entering no evidence and a judge has recorded not guilty verdicts.

Tom criticised Post Office chiefs for their “relentless pursuit” of him, which led to the loss of his home and bankruptcy.

Last year, the Post Office instructed a firm of forensic accountants, 2nd Sight Limited, to conduct an independent review of 10 existing cases raised by a number of MPs and the law firm Shoosmiths.

About 100 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses have registered an interest in suing Post Office Ltd over the Horizon system, which records financial transactions in branches across the UK.

The Post Office has repeatedly denied there is a fundamental problem with the system, saying the claims have been made by a very small number of people.

I would still like them to come out in public and say there was something wrong

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