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The Great Post Office scandal post office sign

Postmaster nearly lost everything in largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history

  • Former sub-postmaster nearly lost everything in Post Office Horizon scandal
  • He tells Manchester audience that general public 'need to be shocked by it'

 

A former sub-postmaster has spoken about being a victim of the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history. 
At the official launch of the Manchester Innocence Project, hosted by Manchester University, two sub-postmasters affected by the Post Office Horizon scandal tell of the trauma they suffered because of a software accounting fault.
Nick Wallis, the journalist who helped break the story, was a main speaker alongside the sub-postmasters at the public meeting. 
Poet Lemn Sissay, chancellor of the university, lent his support to the innocence project and the campaign for justice.
Nick Wallis and subpostmasters at Manchester University
From left to right: Tom Hedges, Lemn Sissay, Pete Murray and Nick Wallis

Background

In 1999 the Post Office introduced a new IT accounting system called Horizon, built by Fujitsu. The software was flawed and did not keep track of the finances, instead wrongly recording thousands of pounds missing from Post Offices all across the country.  
Post Office policy was that sub-postmasters had to pay back funds missing from accounts. 
Suspicion fell on sub-postmasters and many were jailed or lost their livelihoods as a result of action taken by the Post Office.
A public inquiry currently underway has heard stories of families torn apart, mental breakdowns and lives ruined because of the scandal.

Pete Murray

At the event, organised to launch the Innocent Project in Manchester, Northern Quota spoke to Pete Murray, one of the victims of the Post Office scandal. 

Mr Murray, 56, invested in two post offices in 2013/4. He didn't know at the time that the owner of one of them had committed suicide because of accounting discrepancies. 

At the post office Pete started noticing occasional losses. To cover these, he asked friends for financial help and took out a number of loans. 

Pete Murray speaking at Manchester university about the post office
Pete Murray (in green) speaks about his experiences

Eventually the PO auditors came and shut down both post offices. Mr Murray he was told he would have to pay back £60k.

At this point, the PO had known it had had a faulty accounting programme for the past five years. 

Throughout Pete and postmasters like him were told it “wasn’t happening to anyone else”. 

Now he struggles with the treatment and accusations he faced because, he says, “there’s no way they didn’t notice”.  

A tatty reed postbox to represent the Great Post Office Scandal UK
A tatty red postbox in Manchester

Pete told NQ he is still “angry and upset.” 

“I think of my children and I get upset," he said. I still feel guilt and shame, even though I know I shouldn’t."

Pete said the affair had a severe impact on his health.  In 2018 he suffered a stroke which made simple things like visiting family in Scotland hard.

The general public need to be shocked by it. The ones who know are shocked by it

He says that he still has anxiety attacks and has been diagnosed with PTSD because of the emotional trauma he underwent.

His relationship with his wife has suffered and he said it had been extremely hard for both of them.

“I’ve considered suicide and then I found out, she did too,” Pete said.  

Great Post Office Scandal Nick Wallis UK postmaster PO Manchester Innocence Project
Post Office signage in Manchester

Mr Murray is one of the few sub-postmasters to have finished their legal action and received a settlement. 

When the high court ruled in sub-postmasters' favour in 2019, Pete was able to use that to help him win his own case.  
He is now hoping that he and his wife can move on with their lives. 

Finally, I ask him what he wants to achieve, he tells me he just wants people to know and understand how it was allowed to happen, saying;

“The general public need to be shocked by it. The ones who know are shocked by it,” 

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