I don’t often watch the Welsh TV channel, but Anna-Marie Robinson, a producer with BBC Cymru Wales, was kind enough to alert me to her investigative programme Taro Naw, which has done a follow-up on its original look at the Horizon/subpostmaster scandal aired back in 2009.
For anyone unfamiliar with the story: some subpostmasters/mistresses were forced into false accounting to cover what their Horizon computer system reported as ‘missing’ money. They lost their homes, their businesses, their reputations… some went to prison, others were bankrupted. One attempted suicide.
Scandalous behaviour from the Post Office, which still seems to think that, because only a small percentage of their offices are involved, it is a minor glitch (just like their glitchy Horizon system). The PO, by the way, can take people to court without the Crown Prosecution Service, ie without having to bother with evidence to back up their prosecutions.
Taro Naw, which had only stories from 31 retailers in 2009, had heard from some 200 this time around.
They did a thorough job and I was able to put quite a few faces to names - people who have been in touch over the years, such as Alan Bates and Lee Castleton.
The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA), which was responsible for bringing all those hundreds together (who originally were all told ‘you are the only one’), prompted the Post Office to appoint independent investigators Second Sight which this summer found, guess what? Glitches.
After more pressure (and the MPs did their bit) the Post Office has agreed to a mediation plan with JFSA.
After the programme I emailed congratulations to Lee Castleton and he replied: “It is taking a long time, but we are certainly getting there. I have completed the mediation pack stage and been accepted. I have been allowed £1,500 for representation for the next stage. That is the last step. We all can’t wait to finally end this nightmare.”
They want their names cleared and their lives back. And they want to know where all those millions they paid have gone. Perhaps into a compensation fund?