08/10/2013 Taro Naw


08/10/2013

Achosion a thystiolaeth newydd ym mrwydr yr is-bostfeistri am gyfiawnder. New cases and evidence in the sub-postmasters’ campaign for justice.


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Four years ago, this man told Taro Naw...

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..he had been falsely prosecuted by one of Britain's main institutions.

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He spent three years in prison.

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If I'd taken that money, I'd have had a better life than I've had.

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But I can tell you now, hand on heart, I didn't take it.

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This led to a Taro Naw investigation which revealed...

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..that there have been dozens of similar cases across Britain.

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Tonight: Evidence and new cases...

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..and the story about how one man took his campaign...

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..to the corridors of power.

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The institution that prosecuted him has now changed its views.

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It's a disgrace. Not only my case, but these other people too.

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We can reveal tonight that the strain caused one of those people...

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..to try and kill himself a fortnight ago.

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Noel Thomas has devoted much of his life to the Post Office.

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He spent 40 years serving the public and says it was a pleasure.

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It gave me a great deal of pleasure, to be honest.

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You got the chance to discuss everything.

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You got to hear local stories and funny stories...

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..whether you wanted to or not!

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He was a postman before becoming a subpostmaster...

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..and a local councillor for the village of Gaerwen on Anglesey.

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It was a pleasure to represent Gaerwen.

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I hope I fought hard for Gaerwen at all times.

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It was a pleasure to be on Anglesey Council.

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But the last few years have been hard.

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He lost his job and as a result...

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..the old post office he used to run has closed.

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His world fell apart when his employer prosecuted him...

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..claiming that £48,000 was missing from his post office.

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Overnight, he went from being a highly respected councillor...

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..to being a criminal locked up in prison.

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The family was left behind to face the problem.

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They had to face people and it was difficult.

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To be honest, my wife found it very difficult to deal with.

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But I had family and friends and we got through it.

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From the very beginning, he's insisted...

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..that the Post Office's Horizon computer system was responsible...

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..for the inconsistencies.

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Fujitsu designed the system and it was introduced...

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..to British post offices from 1995 onwards.

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It arrived in Gaerwen in the year 2000.

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By 2005, there was a problem.

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Losing money and losing money.

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And we didn't know where it was going.

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You'd lose between £2,000 and £3,000 a month.

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It would just disappear from the account?

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Yes.

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He phoned the Post Office helpline time and time again...

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..and was told not to worry...

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..and that everything would settle in time.

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He felt he had to sign that the balance was correct...

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..at the end of every day...

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..or he wouldn't be able to open the shop the following day.

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The problems continued and in the end...

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..the accountants came in.

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He was charged with stealing £48,000.

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He was also charged with false accounting...

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..on the basis that he agreed that the accounts were correct...

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..when they weren't.

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In court, the Post Office dropped the charge of theft...

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..but on legal advice, Noel Thomas pleaded guilty to false accounting.

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He spent three months in prison and was declared bankrupt.

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The biggest mistake I made was signing the papers.

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If I hadn't, I would not have been charged with false accountancy.

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If I'd have closed the shop, it would have been better.

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We all had to try and carry on.

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But we didn't want to carry on because we knew where he was.

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And it was... It was... Sorry.

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It was a difficult job, to be honest with you...

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..because we knew he wasn't supposed to be there.

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They didn't realise at the time that others had been through...

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..the same thing until a letter arrived from England.

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Oh, wow! It was an incredible feeling.

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We were all sitting around a table here, going...

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.."Oh, my gosh! We're not the only ones going through this.

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"There are others going through it."

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That's when Taro Naw started investigating further...

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..and discovered that there was a pattern.

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Other people's lives had been destroyed...

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..and cases went back over a decade.

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Subpostmasters who'd been prosecuted...

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..for keeping false accounts under the exact same circumstances.

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We talked to dozens across Britain who'd been made bankrupt...

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..who'd lost their homes and were suffering from depression..

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..and they all thought they were alone.

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The system itself didn't seem to be working as it normally would work.

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We kept getting screens that would freeze and various other things.

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We made substantial calls to the Horizon helpline.

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They know, I'm absolutely certain, they know how flawed the system is.

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They'll do anything to keep a lid on it...

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..regardless of how many lives they ruin along the way.

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Hello. I'm Jo.

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How are you?

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Noel Thomas and his daughter travelled to Hampshire...

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..to meet one of them.

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I didn't have any confidence in the helpdesk.

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I didn't really know where to turn for help.

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Although I knew the monies weren't there...

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..I knew I hadn't taken them.

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You couldn't open up the next day unless you agreed the figures...

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..which I then did.

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I paid the price for it eventually.

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She was also found guilty of keeping false accounts...

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..after £36,000 disappeared from the system.

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We are only scratching the surface.

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It's happened everywhere across the country, hasn't it?

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This man wrote to Noel Thomas a month earlier...

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..after doing further research into the case of the subpostmaster...

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..in his village.

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I found a whole lot of people, very similar to Jo.

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Middle-aged, middle-class, never put a foot wrong.

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Perfect characters.

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Often had been subpostmasters for a long time.

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All of whom suddenly turned into these criminals.

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It didn't make sense to me.

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By the time the original programme was broadcast...

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..we'd spoken with 31 subpostmasters who said the same.

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And the politicians were starting to respond.

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There's something going on...

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..and the Post Office has to answer the questions...

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..being asked by these people.

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But the Post Office denied that there was anything wrong...

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..and claimed the Horizon system was dependable.

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It refused to be interviewed four years ago...

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..but in the meantime, the battle for justice intensified.

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People saw, not in the village, but people we knew on Anglesey...

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..the map you showed and there were so many people on that...

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..who had had the same problem...

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..and it wasn't just them who were frightened.

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We'd found a few but it was an eye-opener.

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That started driving us forward even more.

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After years of trying to persuade people he was innocent...

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..her father felt hopeful once more.

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It raised my spirits and the family's spirits, to be honest.

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And the friends who stood by me through the trouble.

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There were responses from subpostmasters across Britain...

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..that we didn't know about before the programme.

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Each one was glad the story had been made public...

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..and had believed they were the only ones in trouble.

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They contacted each other and slowly, more evidence emerged...

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..and more stories about lives that had been destroyed.

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And we received these - evidence in black and white.

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Something that's very rare because once the Post Office...

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..arrests someone, it claims all the paperwork.

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These are receipts from a post office in South Wales...

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..and according to the subpostmaster who sent them...

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..to us, they prove that there's something wrong with Horizon.

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Inconsistencies emerged after a customer paid to send a parcel...

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..from a post office in Carmarthenshire in August 2009.

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Notice the time. 10.52am.

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Every payment has its own number.

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There's a black circle around the number in this case...

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..on the customer's receipt.

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The customer paid £9.31 and the parcel label shows the date...

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..how much was paid and once again, the unique number for the payment.

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However, that's not on the records of the subpostmaster.

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They go from a payment just before 10.45am..

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..straight to the next at 10.59am.

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There's no record of a payment at 10.52am.

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So there would be £9.31 too much in the till at the end of the day...

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..and nothing to show where it came from.

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It appears that the system can delete records of payments.

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According to subpostmasters, deficiencies like this...

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..could have led to losses of thousands of pounds.

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After realising that so many were saying the same thing...

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..the subpostmasters established a campaign group...

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..in order to get justice - Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance.

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During the last four years, they've been meeting regularly...

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..and they've now persuaded the Post Office to listen to them.

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Julien, how are you?

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This man is a prominent member of the JFSA.

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He's a former postmaster from Redditch in the Midlands.

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He contacted Taro Naw after seeing the original programme.

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I was told I was the only one.

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Then when your first programme highlighted the issue...

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..I discovered I wasn't alone.

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There were other people in the same situation as I was.

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We decided we would create...

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..the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance...

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..because, individually, you cannot fight Post Office.

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He went through the courts and lost his livelihood.

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Things that could not be explained...

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..were happening with the Horizon system.

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The last thing I did on the Saturday...

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..before closing the post office was count the cash...

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..declare it on the system, you push a button...

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..and that prints you off a receipt and tells you what you've declared.

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And you put that in with your weekly paperwork...

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..ready for the balance the coming Wednesday.

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On the Monday, I go into the post office, switch the system on...

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..print that report off, having done no transactions on it...

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..and it was different to what I'd prepared on the Saturday.

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This continued.

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There were imbalances most weeks...

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..which is quite acceptable, but they started to get bigger.

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I raised this question with my line manager...

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..who visited on a regular basis.

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He said, "Don't worry about it.

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"The system will put itself right."

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In the end, the Post Office prosecuted him...

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..and like Noel Thomas, he pleaded guilty to keeping false accounts.

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He had to pay the Post Office almost £30,000...

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..and complete 200 hours of community service.

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The Post Office hasn't backed down.

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A subpostmistress on Anglesey has also been prosecuted.

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She's contacted the JFSA.

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There's one down the road from here, to be honest.

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My heart goes out to her.

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She's lost everything as well.

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Taro Naw has talked to Lorraine Williams from Llanddaniel.

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She couldn't be interviewed because she is still on probation.

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However, there's a sign that things could change...

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..and what started as one man's lonely battle has snowballed.

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Following Taro Naw's investigation, pressure from the JFSA...

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..support from MPs and wider attention in the media...

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..the 31 subpostmasters we found in 2009...

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..has now multiplied to almost 200...

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..and Taro Naw is still discovering new cases.

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Up until now I thought I was the only idiot...

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..who'd put himself in a situation to lose so much money.

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After years of denying anything was wrong with the system...

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..the Post Office had to make a dramatic statement over the summer.

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Someone, somewhere knows something's not right.

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They've sent people like me to jail.

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They've taken all our livelihoods.

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But other people, they've destroyed their lives...

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..and in my mind that's much worse than going to jail.

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Noel Thomas is one of several subpostmasters...

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..who've been prosecuted by the Post Office...

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..on charges of stealing or false accounting.

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He says he was wrongly jailed and he's battling to save...

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..his good name.

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A difficult time was returning to his community after leaving jail.

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That first step out of the door...

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..and saying that first 'hello' or 'how are you?' to people.

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Were you going to get a 'hello' in response or would...

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..somebody turn their back?

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What was the lowest point while you were in prison?

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Arriving in Walton, I think.

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He was in his cell for 23 hours a day.

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The time dragged terribly there.

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There were very few people of my age in prison.

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The majority were young people.

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Ordinary people.

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And they could be pretty rough.

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How much of a support has your family been to you?

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A huge support.

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The children...

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..my sister-in-law...

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..my wife's cousins. They've all been very good.

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Earlier this year, the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance...

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..persuaded the Post Office to employ Second Sight...

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..a forensic accounting company, to investigate their claims.

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47 former subpostmasters presented their cases to the company.

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This was a turning point in their case for justice.

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This is the first independent investigation to be held.

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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

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Yesterday evening, an interim report into alleged problems...

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..with the Post Office Horizon computer system was published.

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The report gave some unexpected news.

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After investigating four of the 47 cases...

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...up until now, they haven't found any systemic problems with Horizon.

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But they have come across two defects that led to problems...

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..in 76 post offices.

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It became clear that the Post Office was aware of the defects...

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..before Second Sight began their investigation.

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After years of denying anything was wrong with Horizon...

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..the Post Office has adopted a different stance.

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The very least Post Office Ltd should be doing...

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..is setting up a legal fund to review each of these cases...

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..because many will have pleaded guilty to false accounting...

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..given the situation with the system and legal advice received.

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I think the House is very concerned about ...

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..a very small number of people who've had their lives ruined.

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It's no good to say, "Oh, they can appeal."

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We need proactive action from the Government.

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I suggest she talks to the Attorney General to see...

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..if he can look into these cases.

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That's what you want.

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We're halfway there.

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We'll see what happens.

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The report also found the Post Office hadn't done enough...

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..to help the subpostmasters.

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As it can prosecute without contacting the police or CPS...

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..their accountants concentrated on getting the money back...

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..and prosecuting than tackling the real problem.

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The Post Office are only one of two organizations...

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..that I know of that can take people to court...

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..without using the Crown Prosecution Service.

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If the majority of these cases, I'm sure, were presented to the CPS...

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..they would throw them out.

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Post Office are unable to supply the evidence...

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..to back up their prosecution.

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The Post Office has admitted that software defects have affected...

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..a computer system that's been the cause of a prolonged dispute...

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..with some of its subpostmasters.

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I fell asleep in front of the TV recently.

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Suddenly I woke up and there was something on the news...

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..saying others were in the same hole I'd been in.

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This man from Mid Wales knew nothing about the other cases...

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..until this summer.

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Although he wants to remain anonymous, his story is familiar.

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When he realized the system said £17,000 was missing...

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..he called the accountants and the police immediately.

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The auditors looked at me threateningly...

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..as if I'd committed a crime.

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They weren't interested in finding out if anything was wrong...

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..with the computer, or offer me any help.

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The bottom line was, nobody from the Post Office believed...

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..the system could be wrong.

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The blame was placed squarely on the subpostmaster.

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In order to avoid going to court he gave the Post Office £17,000...

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..of his life savings, closed the shop...

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..and never worked for them again.

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But a month ago, after contacting us, he made another discovery...

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..that surprised him.

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I've found out that the person who'd been there before me...

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..had lost almost the same amount and the Post Office knew about it.

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She'd had to repay it. There's a pattern here.

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If you'd signed off that the accounts were right...

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..you'd be in trouble.

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I'd be in jail.

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The Post Office would have been happy to say...

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..fraud and false accounting.

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You can't sign something's right if it isn't right.

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Second Sight will present a further report to Parliament...

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..during the next few weeks.

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Meanwhile, a mediation panel...

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..will consider every individual case.

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The mediation panel has been set up by JFSA...

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..Second Sight, who are the forensic accountants...

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..doing the investigation on behalf of Post Office...

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..our forensic accountant, the MPs and Post Office.

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How that will work is...

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..that all of us that are involved in this process...

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..will have to apply to this working party...

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..for our case to be registered with them.

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This isn't the end of it.

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There's quite a long way to go yet.

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But we're hopeful. One step at a time.

0:21:220:21:25

This is the biggest hope for justice and compensation.

0:21:250:21:29

Noel Thomas has brought his mediation pack...

0:21:290:21:32

..to solicitor, Eilian Williams, to ensure he's filled it in properly.

0:21:320:21:36

Because the Post Office has offered you...

0:21:370:21:39

..this type of review...

0:21:400:21:43

..you haven't got much to lose.

0:21:430:21:45

The closing date to present your case before the panel...

0:21:460:21:50

..is 18th November.

0:21:500:21:52

Taro 9 understands that nearly 200 subpostmasters...

0:21:520:21:55

..have applied for a pack.

0:21:560:21:57

From the nature of the document...

0:21:570:22:00

..there is a promise made by the Post Office...

0:22:000:22:03

..to try and talk to those affected...

0:22:030:22:06

..to respond to their complaints in a clear manner.

0:22:060:22:10

But it's clear they're avoiding the legal wrangling...

0:22:100:22:13

..that could arise following the accusations and suggestions...

0:22:140:22:17

..the system is defective.

0:22:180:22:19

The David and Goliath battle is timeless.

0:22:200:22:23

One subpostmaster who's facing prosecution attempted suicide...

0:22:230:22:27

..two weeks ago.

0:22:270:22:29

I've had an email from the subpostmaster's family about this..

0:22:300:22:33

..awful incident.

0:22:330:22:36

And I know how deep the anguish is...

0:22:360:22:39

..that has been caused to a lot of subpostmasters across the country..

0:22:400:22:44

..by what's happened in many of these case.

0:22:440:22:47

Although he welcomes the Post Office's commitment...

0:22:470:22:51

..into further investigations, he is disappointed...

0:22:510:22:55

..with some of the findings in Second Sight's report.

0:22:550:22:58

The Post Office did know there were bugs in the system...

0:22:580:23:01

..and I was very surprised to hear they knew that...

0:23:020:23:05

..and hadn't told me that or told other MPs that.

0:23:050:23:08

One question still angers Noel Thomas.

0:23:090:23:13

If the postmasters hadn't been stealing, where's the money gone?

0:23:130:23:17

They don't know more than me where it's gone.

0:23:180:23:21

I'd like to know where it's gone.

0:23:210:23:24

Noel Thomas has been asking this for nearly a decade.

0:23:240:23:28

It's been four years since Taro 9 and MPs started asking the same.

0:23:280:23:33

We asked for an interview with the Post Office back in July...

0:23:330:23:37

..but like last time, they refused.

0:23:380:23:40

Then a few days ago they reconsidered...

0:23:400:23:43

..but it was too late for this programme.

0:23:430:23:46

They have responded to many questions raised by Taro 9.

0:23:460:23:51

They said they were continuing with about 50 prosecutions a year.

0:23:510:23:56

They say it's a small number of the 11,800...

0:23:560:23:59

..post office branches they have throughout Britain.

0:23:590:24:03

If there are any doubts any crime has been committed...

0:24:030:24:08

..they have a duty to prosecute.

0:24:080:24:10

They added that an independent investigation had failed...

0:24:110:24:14

..to find any systemic defects with Horizon.

0:24:140:24:17

They didn't mention they'd told investigators...

0:24:170:24:20

..there bugs in the system that affected branches.

0:24:210:24:25

The Post Office stressed they had introduced further improvements...

0:24:250:24:29

..to their training programme and support...

0:24:290:24:32

..and they'd set up a mediation plan with the JFSA.

0:24:320:24:36

What I'd like, more than anything, is to get the money back...

0:24:360:24:39

..and for them to admit they're wrong, for them to apologize.

0:24:400:24:43

That's what I'd like.

0:24:440:24:45

Firstly, we want our names cleared.

0:24:450:24:49

Because we actually didn't do anything wrong.

0:24:500:24:54

We've not stolen a penny from Post Office.

0:24:540:24:57

Two - we all want our lives back.

0:24:580:25:02

Because over the last five years, in my case...

0:25:020:25:05

..the affect the actions Post Office have taken on us...

0:25:050:25:10

..has been horrendous.

0:25:100:25:12

Absolutely horrendous.

0:25:120:25:15

Finally, we want recognition of what has happened to us...

0:25:160:25:22

..by Post Office.

0:25:220:25:24

And that can only be achieved...

0:25:240:25:26

..by means of a financial settlement.

0:25:270:25:30

We are all, one million per cent, behind my father.

0:25:300:25:33

Not one us turned around, even for a second...

0:25:330:25:37

..to say he's guilty.

0:25:370:25:39

He is no longer a voice in the wilderness.

0:25:400:25:43

Noel Thomas is one of dozens who want more than money.

0:25:440:25:47

Why are you still fighting?

0:25:470:25:50

My self-respect.

0:25:500:25:52

To retain my good name, hopefully.

0:25:530:25:56

We're halfway there.

0:25:560:25:58

S4C subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:26:190:26:22

.

0:26:220:26:22

Mae rhaglen heno yn dilyn y digwyddiadau dros y bedair blynedd diwethaf. Mi fydd yn datgelu achosion newydd a thystiolaeth sydd, am y tro cyntaf, yn dangos sut y gall namau fod wedi ymddangos yn system gyfrifiadurol rhai Swyddfeydd Post. Tonight’s programme follows the events over the past four year. It will reveal new cases and evidence which, for the first time, show that computer systems in some Post Office could have contained bugs.


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