Huddersfield man declared bankrupt in Post Office Horizon scandal still fighting for compensation

Stefan Fountain had to put £12,000 of his own money into his Post Office to balance the errors created by the Horizon accounting software. Credit: PA/Yorkshire Live/MEN

A former subpostmaster who lost his home after being caught up in the Post Office fraud scandal says it is "appalling" that he has been offered compensation that could leave him with just £4,000.Stefan Fountain, from Brighouse, West Yorkshire, was among hundreds of branch managers who were implicated when faulty IT software, known as Horizon, suggested they had stolen money.

More than 700 people ended up with criminal convictions before the fault came to light.

Mr Fountain was forced to sell his branch, in Huddersfield, and his wife's car and remortgage his home. Unable to keep up with the repayments, he eventually lost the property.

He told the Yorkshire Live website he had now been offered £24,000 in damages, but could lose £20,000 of that to official receivers recouping money for creditors he owes money to.

"It’s appalling, I just can’t comprehend how they can do this to people," he said. "I get quite angry and bitter when I think about it, as I’ve had to struggle all of my life due to the failings of the Horizon system, and yet still I am treated like this."

Mr Fountain had run the branch for around 20 years when the Horizon software was installed. He said the accounts soon started to show shortfalls and he was worried about the consequences, so he decided to leave.

While he was not convicted of any crimes, he was left financially devastated by the fallout.

"It ended up with me being advised to declare myself bankrupt," Mr Fountain said. "A couple of years later I had to remortgage my home, and that saddled me with big payments and £160,000 debt.

"Now I’ve sold my house and here I am today, at 65, looking for a new part-time job to get by. It is all because of what happened to me, yet I’m told my compensation offer is only worth £24,000, and only £4,000 of that will come to me.

"The offer is a pittance compared to my true losses."

Business secretary Grant Shapps said 93% of eligible claimants had been offered compensation for a total of £70.8 million.

But Neil Hudgell, whose firm Hudgell Solicitors represents dozens of the scandal's victims, including those who were wrongfully convicted, says concerns remain around the scheme.

"We also have this appalling situation, such as in Stefan’s case, where damages are mostly being paid to the official receivers, where people were made bankrupt, though no fault of their own, and directly as a consequence of the failings of the Post Office," he said.

"They should take the lead to sort this out, without further lengthy delay.

"Like in Stefan’s case, we have found that a large number of people have received offers for compensation via the Historical Shortfall Scheme which simply do not reflect the amount of suffering caused."

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