Former York sub-postmistress gives evidence in an inquiry into Post Office IT scandal

Credit - PA Images
Many postmasters were made bankrupt, received criminal records and have suffered ill health. Credit: PA Images

A former sub-postmistress from York has told an inquiry into the Post Office IT scandal that the stress of dealing with the Post Office's faulty IT system "nearly killed" her.

The inquiry, which is expected to run for the rest of this year, will look at whether the Post Office knew about the faults in the Horizon computer systems and how staff took the blame.

Between 2000 and 2014, more than 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses (SPMs) were prosecuted based on information from the Horizon computer system, installed and maintained by Fujitsu.

In December 2019 a High Court judge ruled that the Horizon system contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

Wendy Martin, who opened her own Post Office in York in February 2015, after borrowing £20,000 from the bank and a further £13,000 from family and her savings to open the branch, said she immediately started facing problems with the computer systems, including transactions disappearing.

An inquiry, on Thursday (17 February) heard that the stress of being liable for the shortfalls and unexplained discrepancies while fighting to get the Post Office to fix the issue, caused her health to dramatically deteriorate.

She said that she experienced discrepancies of up to £30,000 in one day, and estimates that she paid the Post Office around £8,000 to make up discrepancies.

But, as she told the inquiry, the amount shown for the discrepancies would often change - once it went from £3,500 short to a few hundred pounds short within 20 minutes.Ms Martin said, "It nearly killed me," adding that she suffered sleepless nights, constant kidney infections and a suspected stroke after closing the branch in early 2016."It devastated our lives and we need repaying and we need compensation," she added.

On Wednesday (16 February), a group of cross-party MPs called on the Government to fully compensate all victims.