Thomas Brown was a subpostmaster for a couple of decades, working in various branches in the north-east. The opportunity came up to buy a Newcastle branch of Finlays Newsagents. “It was the worst thing I ever did,” he says.
Post Office Ltd (POL) suspended him in November 2008 following an audit that found a shortfall of £85,000. This was according to POL’s Horizon computer system.
He resigned a few months later, lost his store, house and flat and was declared bankrupt. He has been protesting his innocence ever since. POL prosecuted him on two charges of false accounting – dropped at trial in 2013 as the prosecution had no evidence to offer.
Tom joined the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) and is now one of more than 1,000 subpostmasters who have been given the go-ahead to pursue a group action through court. They all blame the Horizon accounting system which led to fines, sackings, loss of livelihoods and in some cases, imprisonment.
Alan Bates, spokesman for the JFSA, says that any other subpostmasters affected by issues with the system could be eligible to join the case. Either go to the website (www.poclaims.co.uk) or contact the lawyers (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 0800 304 7727. You have until 26 July, the cut-off date.
Tom says he is looking for at least £500,000 compensation for lost income and lost properties. But his reputation? “People think there’s no smoke without fire. It’s very sad.”