Staunton Forced to Step Down as Post Office Chairman

The latest news in the Post Office Horizon scandal is Staunton’s resignation at the weekend.

Staunton Resigns

Following a phone call on Saturday with Business Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, Henry Staunton is stepping down as Post Office chairman.

This comes amid public outrage and ongoing tension with the government surrounding the Horizon IT scandal.

An Overview of the Horizon IT Scandal

Between 1999 and 2015, around 4,000 sub-postmasters and postmistresses were wrongfully held responsible for shortfalls of money. They were blamed for stealing from their Post Office branches when in actuality, the Post Office accounting software, Horizon, was faulty.

This led to lots of terminated contracts, debt, bankruptcy, financial convictions and imprisonment amongst those accused.

In fact, over 900 sub-postmasters and postmistresses were prosecuted for stealing money on the basis of faulty information provided by the Horizon computer system, with the Post Office itself prosecuting 700 people.

An Overview of the Horizon IT Scandal

As of January 2024, only 95 convictions have been overturned and hundreds of people are still awaiting compensation.

“The Post Office Horizon scandal is the most widespread miscarriage of justice the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has ever seen.

It relates to wrongful prosecutions of former sub-postmasters for theft, fraud and false accounting”The CCRC

Some of the victims of this scandal shared their stories with BBC Breakfast earlier this month….

Tom Hedges ran a Post Office in Hogsthorpe. He was there for 16 years until being dismissed in 2009 and convicted in court in 2010. He said that he has handed the Post Office about £60,000 and stated, “Frankly, it wrecked my life, my family’s life and everybody I know’s life.”

Mohammad Rasul worked for the Post Office for 27 years before being convicted for false accounting. He had to wear a tag for 3 months and had a 12 month suspended sentence. He paid a shortfall of £12,000 out of his own savings and borrowed money to avoid going to prison. He said, “I’ve carried the shame ever since, I refuse to carry it any longer.”

Scott Darlington ran Alderly Edge Post Office from 2005 before being suspended in 2009 and convicted in 2010. He said, “I couldn’t get a job for three and a half years after that. I couldn’t afford to pay for my daughter’s school uniform. I suffered awful stigma and embarrassment and financial distress ever since.”

Maria from Huddersfield said, “They terminated my contract after I paid more than £30,000 back to them.”

Tim Brentnall ran Roch Post Office in Pembrokeshire from 2005 until a shortfall was found in late 2009. He commented, “I was told that if I didn’t repay it I’d be facing a theft charge. So I raided my savings, my parents’ savings, I had to sell my car. And as soon as that was done, I was then charged with false accounting.”

These people, along with many other victims, are the people we should remember when thinking about this scandal. It is their lives that have been so terribly affected: their reputations, their jobs, their livelihoods, their finances.

One thing that appears to have been a trend amongst these victims is them being forced to pay what they didn’t owe and admit guilt to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid time in prison. Scott Darlington told BBC Breakfast, “I wanted to plead not guilty but was advised to plead guilty” with Tom Hedges adding that his lawyer gave similar advice, stating, “if you plead not guilty, I can guarantee you will go to prison.”  

We hope that these victims get the outcome they deserve soon, with compensation and full accountability from the Post Office.

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