North Durham MP Kevan Jones leads review call on Post Office 'frauds'

MP Kevan Jones said people's lives have been "wrecked" by the system, for which the Post Office must take responsibility

Emily Barber Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Kevan Jones
Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Kevan Jones

A North East MP is leading a review into the cases of Post Office sub-postmasters accused of financial irregularities.

Around 150 sub-postmasters say they have been wrongly accused of fraud and false accounting because of problems with the Horizon computer software leading to shortfalls being generated in their accounts, MPs heard.

Conservative former minister James Arbuthnot said sub-postmasters accused of wrongdoing had suffered health problems, lost their businesses and seen their marriages break-up while some had been jailed and others left living in their cars.

He added some who have been through a mediation process to resolve their cases had experienced “legal bullying” and “no intention by the Post Office to get to the bottom of what went wrong”.

Mr Arbuthnot, who has stepped down from leading the MPs’ campaign, claimed documents have been “destroyed or lost” as he called for the Government to bring forward a review which is independent of the Post Office.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission should also launch an investigation, including into the cases of those who pleaded guilty, Mr Arbuthnot said.

He also suggested it was “untenable for the Post Office to act as its own prosecutor”.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, the North East Hampshire MP said he was handing over leadership of the MPs’ campaign to Kevan Jones, Labour MP for North Durham.

Mr Jones said: “As a matter of urgency, the Post Office should ensure that the mediation scheme is speedy, comprehensive and inclusive.

“People’s lives have been wrecked by the horizon system, which the Post Office now must take responsibility for.”

Mr Arbuthnot added: “It’s partly because I shan’t be standing in the general election next year. But it’s also, frankly, because I no longer trust them (the Post Office) and I shan’t be negotiating with them further.

“I did not, as some of the newspaper reports suggested, withdraw the support of 150 Members of Parliament. I’ve got no right to do that.

“I withdrew my own personal support and what (MPs) do now is of course up to them but I believe there are other avenues that need to be taken.

“I think we need a review by the Government because we own this organisation.

“It has to be entirely independent of the Post Office, which has shown it cannot be trusted on the issue - possibly it’s an issue of special ombudsman.

“In my letter to the chief executive of the Post Office I asked for three things.

“I asked for no further destruction of documents and by documentation I really mean not only the documentation for those who are within the mediation scheme but also the documentation for those cases for those (MPs) who haven’t managed for one reason or another to get into the mediation scheme.

“I hope the Government can prevent the Post Office pleading the statute of limitations so that sub-postmasters’ legal actions should not be time barred by the passage of time - some of them caused by the behaviour of the Post Office.

“And I hope that the Post Office and Government can agree that (MPs) should be briefed by Second Sight, not on individual cases but on the way the mediation scheme has gone.”

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