Post Office Horizon scandal: Sunderland subpostmistress wants prosecutions for those responsible

  • Watch the report

A former subpostmistress, who was wrongly convicted of false accounting, has said she wants those responsible for the Post Office Horizon scandal to be prosecuted.

Pauline Stonehouse saw her conviction quashed at the High Court in November 2021. She had been accused of six counts of false accounting in 2008 after £15,000 appeared to be unaccounted for at the Sunderland Post Office branch she ran with her husband.

It later emerged the Post Office's Horizon computer system was faulty and to blame for the errors, rather than the 2,700 sub-postmasters and mistresses accused.

The Post Office has said they are doing everything they can to right the wrongs of the scandal and establish where the accountability lies but Ms Stonehouse hopes there will be prosecutions once this becomes clear.

The Post Office has said they are doing everything they can to right the wrongs of the Horizon scandal. Credit: ITV News

"I’d like them to get a bit of their own medicine," she told ITV Tyne Tees. "A prosecution would be great. Put their names in the paper. See how they like it.

"Having their names put in the local newspaper, leaving a courtroom and see how that feels for them because it’s not nice for all of us who’ve been through that."

She is still waiting to be paid compensation for the 15 years of trauma she has suffered.

She said the airing of a new dramatisation about the Horizon scandal, Mr Bates vs the Post Office, on ITV1 and ITVX has reopened old wounds.

Pauline Stonehouse had her conviction quashed in November 2021 but is yet to receive compensation. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"I cried. I shouted. I walked out of the room a few times," she explained. "I haven’t slept in two days since watching it. It’s brought back so many bad memories.

"I’m back in the post office again. I’m back sitting behind that counter. I’m back counting money and checking my safe and going through documents. I’m reliving it over again all the time."

Ms Stonehouse said the whole scandal cost her so much personally, adding: "I lost my home, my livelihood. I was homeless with two children under the age of nine. They turned my life upside down.

"They accused my husband of stealing the money if I didn’t take it, but ultimately in the end they admitted that I didn’t steal anything."

The Postal Services Minister, Kevin Hollinrake MP, told Good Morning Britain that he would support prosecutions if there was enough evidence to be sent to the CPS.

He said: "That seems reasonable to me, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a prosecutor, so there should be a legal route to that, but whether there is evidence of that and a prosecution can be taken forward, in this situation I would welcome it."

Mr Bates vs the Post Office continues on ITV1 and ITVX tonight at 9pm. Credit: ITV

In a statement, the Post Office reiterated its support for the public inquiry and stressed they are continuing to make compensation payments to those responsible.

A Post Office spokesperson said: "We fully share the aims of the current public inquiry, set up to establish what went wrong in the past and the accountability for it. We are acutely aware of the human cost of the scandal and are doing all we can to right the wrongs of the past, as far as that is possible.

"Both the Post Office and Government are committed to providing full, fair and final compensation for the people affected.

"To date, offers of compensation totalling more than £138 million have been made to around 2,700 postmasters, the vast majority of which have been agreed and paid.

"Interim payments continue to be made in other cases which have not yet been resolved."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...