‘From day one they knew it was no good’: former sub-postmaster was a victim of the Post Office Horizon scandal

  • PO scandal one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in recent history
  • Faulty computer system, Horizon, led to hundreds of Post Office staff being wrongly convicted of theft and false accounting
  • More than 20 years on campaigners have won a legal battle to have cases reviewed

Between 2000 and 2014, over 700 sub-postmasters lost their jobs, faced fines and prosecutions over a flaws in an accounting software system.

Some faced jail, countless others went bankrupt trying to repay money they did not owe, and others took their own lives.

Post Office Services Sign
Over 700 sub-postmasters lost their jobs over flaws in the Horizon accounting software system

Amongst those effected was former sub-postmaster Tom Hedges.

He received a seven-month suspended sentence for theft and false accounting and was ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

Tom and wife Carol ran the Hogsthorpe Post Office, eight miles from Skegness.

Tom told NQ how important they were in the community.

“We both loved running that Post Office. We were sort of the centre of the village,” he said.

“We were seen as the font of all knowledge. People used to come and talk to us about all weird and wonderful things.

“If a dog got loose in the village, they would come to us. If they had a problem with getting on the electoral role or something, I’d help. We loved it.”

Former postmaster Tom Hedges
Tom and Carol ‘loved running that Post Office. We were sort of the centre of the village’

The faulty Horizon system incorrectly showed shortfalls of money at their Post Office branch.

Tom realised the issue and raised his concerns but felt ignored.

“Nobody would acknowledge that there was anything wrong. I just felt let down,” he said.

 I felt if I banged on long and hard enough somebody would take notice, but they never did

Tom worked for the Post Office five years before the Horizon system. At that time everything had carbon copies of transactions.

Tom explained: “If there was a problem you could go back and there was a copy. Once it went online with Horizon, you pressed a button and it was gone, you couldn’t check.”

In Tom’s appeal hearing the lawyers’ acquired minutes from Post Office board meetings from spring 1999, just months before the official launch of Horizon software.

Fujitsu, Horizons designers, were asked about the system’s progress.

Tom tells me their response was that “it’s full of bugs”.

He said: “So the Post Office said, ‘fix them  and come back to us’.

“Roll on a month or two, another board meeting, ‘How’s it going Fujitsu?’ the answer, ‘well, we have fixed half of them’.

“The conclusion of the meeting was, we’re launching anyway.

“So, from day one they knew it was no good.”

Former Post Office lawyers are being investigated by industry watchdogs as the public inquiry continues.

Tom told the Innocence Project Manchester audience what he hopes the outcome will be.

“I’m not a vindictive man. I just want it to be acknowledged people got it wrong,” he said.

Tom told NQ of the challenges he faced during his 12 years battel with the Post Office.

“I wallowed in sort of self-pity for two or three months after id been convicted, and I used to sit at my desk looking at this pile of paperwork,” he said.

“Just one day I said, ‘right that’s it’

I took it all outside and I burnt it. I turned my back on it and thought this is the first day of the rest of my life

“I bitterly regret it, because there were pieces of documents, I could use in the legal processes I’m going through at the moment to get compensation, but to me it drew a line in the sand ‘right that’s done let’s look to tomorrow’.”