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Post Office to appeal against judgment in Post Office computer errors case

By Mark Andrews | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

The Post Office has applied to appeal against the first judgment in its long-running legal battle with a group of former workers who say they were wrongly blamed for financial discrepancies.

Tracy Felstead

Former post office clerk Tracy Felstead, from Telford, is among 557 former post office staff trying to clear their names, after she was jailed for theft in 2001.

They say financial shortfalls were caused by a glitch with the Post Office's controversial Horizon computer system, which logs transactions.

In the first of four trials being heard at the High Court in London, Mr Justice Fraser found in favour of the post office workers.

Judge Fraser accused the Post Office of 'oppressive behaviour' and said there was a culture of secrecy surrounding the Horizon System.

The Post Office is now seeking to get the judgment overturned. It had unsuccessfully tried to remove Judge Fraser from the trial, accusing him of bias.

Questioned

In his judgment, made in March this year, Judge Fraser criticised the Post Office for sending out letters which said sub-postmasters were liable for shortfalls which appeared in their accounts.

“There can be no excuse, in my judgment, for an entity such as the Post Office to mis-state, in such clearly expressed terms, in letters that threaten legal action, the extent of the contractual obligation upon a sub-postmaster for losses," he said.

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"The only reason for doing so, in my judgment, must have been to lead the recipients to believe that they had absolutely no option but to pay the sums demanded. It is oppressive behaviour.”

He also questioned the claim on the Post Office's website which described itself as 'the nation's most trusted brand'.

"So far as these claimants, and the subject matter of this group litigation, are concerned, this might be thought to be wholly wishful thinking,” he said.

Miss Felstead, now 37, of Bourneside Drive, Brookside, was jailed for six months in 2001 for the theft of £11,500. At the time she was a 19-year-old counter clerk at a Post Office branch in London.

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Rubbina Shaheen with husband Mohamed

Also trying to clear her name is 53-year-old Rubbina Shaheen, of Worthen, near Shrewsbury.

She was jailed for 12 months in 2010 for false accounting after £43,000 allegedly went missing from Greenfields Post Office in Shrewsbury.

Mrs Shaheen is not part of the group action in the High Court, but along with Miss Felstead she is seeking to have her conviction overturned through the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The Post Office denies there is a problem with the Horizon system, and says it has confidence in it.

"We have confidence in Horizon, which is robust, reliable and used across 11,500 branches by postmasters, agents and their many thousands of staff to process millions of transactions successfully every day, including on behalf of the UK’s high street banks,” it said in a previous statement.

The trial continues.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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