Who are the Post Office Horizon scandal victims in the North East?

PA/ITV Tyne Tees/Family handout
Many accused are still waiting for their conviction to be quashed and to receive compensation. Credit: PA/ITV Tyne Tees/Family handout

The Post Office Horizon scandal has grabbed the attention of the nation following the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

The drama tells the story of a two-decade campaign by sub-postmasters and mistresses who sought to expose faults to the digital accounting software Horizon that made it look like money had gone missing.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses were wrongly prosecuted for the issue until it was ruled by the High Court in 2019 that Horizon was to blame.

Many accused are still waiting for their conviction to be quashed and to receive compensation but on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak announced that those affected would be "swiftly exonerated and compensated".

Here ITV Tyne Tees identifies those from the region who are among those affected by the scandal.

Pauline Stonehouse

Ms Stonehouse was 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.

Her conviction was quashed in 2021 but she is among those still waiting to be paid compensation.

Following the drama's release Ms Stonehouse has called for those responsible to be prosecuted so they can "see how it feels".

Pauline Stonehouse had her conviction overturned Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Peter Holmes

Mr Holmes was a sub-postmaster wrongly convicted of stealing £46,000 from his own branch in Jesmond, in Newcastle, ruining the former police officer's reputation and health.

He died before his conviction was overturned in 2021 and his fight has been taken up by his wife Marion.

She told ITV Tyne Tees she has mixed feelings over the Prime Minister's announcement on Wednesday after so many promises on the issue.

Peter Holmes alongside his wife Marion Credit: Family handout

Thomas Brown

Mr Brown worked at numerous Post Office branches across County Durham and Tyneside.

He was arrested for allegedly stealing over £80,000. His case was taken to Newcastle Crown Court but was dismissed.

The Horizon Scandal bankrupted Mr Brown and he lost his properties and reputation.

He previously told ITV Tyne Tees that being made "destitute" was one of the hardest things he has had to face.

Thomas Brown worked closely with North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones to highlight the Post Office Scandal.

Mr Brown died just before Christmas.

Thomas Brown speaking to ITV Tyne Tees in 2019 Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Christopher Head

Mr Head was the youngest sub-postmaster in the United Kingdom in 2006 and ran a branch in West Bolden.

In 2014, he was accused of having a shortfall of nearly £90,000 and was questioned by the Post Office about the money from February 2015.

In 2020, Mr Head handed in a petition to Downing Street with his MP for Jarrow, Kate Osborne, calling for a public inquiry into the Post Office scandal.

Chris Head went to Downing Street with Kate Osborne MP to raise the issue. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Sarah Burgess-Boyde

Ms Burgess-Boyde ran the Post Office branch on Starbeck Avenue in Sandyford, Newcastle, until problems arose following a routine audit in 2009.

She was suspended that year and accused of stealing £33,000.

A trial was held in December 2011 but she was acquitted after two days as no evidence was presented by the Post Office.

Sarah received "a small amount" of compensation following the High Court Ruling, but considers the £75,000 being discussed by the government now as "a drop in the ocean".

In the hope that Post Office would realise its mistake and reinstate her, Sarah Burgess-Boyde used her own savings to keep her branch open.

Breaking down in tears, she told ITV Tyne Tees: "They made you feel like they were the police, the only difference I think is you were most definitely guilty. There was no question of innocence.

"I think I shut down in the two years between my suspension and my crown court appearance. I just withdrew into this shell. It was just awful."

Janine Powell

Janine Powell lives in the village of Trimdon in County Durham, but is originally from Devon and was working at a Post Office branch in Tiverton.

She spent five months in jail after she was wrongly convicted of theft and false accounting.

Ms Powell's conviction was quashed in 2022, however she is among those awaiting compensation.

When Ms Powell was imprisoned in 2008 her daughter, Sophia, was just 10 years old. She says the scandal continues to affect her children.

She has told ITV Tyne Tees. "It really shouldn't have happened in the first place.

"No compensation will give back what was taken away from me with being away from my children and family."

Janine Powell with her daughter Sophia Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Shazia Saddiq

Ms Saddiq ran multiple Post Office branches in Newcastle between 2009 and 2016 when she was terminated.

In 2014, one of her branches suffered a cyber attack where more than £30,000 appeared to go missing.

Ms Saddiq was held responsible despite the money later being found in a suspense account.

She was never convicted as she refused to sign off on accounts that would have meant she agreed with figures from the faulty Horizon IT system.

She left Newcastle and moved in with her now husband in Banbury, Oxfordshire, but says that investigation continued against her. She told the PA news agency it was "tormenting".

Shazia Saddiq had several Post Office branches in Newcastle. Credit: PA

On Thursday 11 January 2024, Ms Saddiq had a statement partially read out at Aldwych House where Stephen Bradshaw, a Post Office investigator, was giving evidence to the enquiry.

Recalling a date in November 2016, the 40-year-old said: “Stephen Bradshaw called me and I refused to speak to him because I did not know who he was or who he worked for.

"In that telephone call he called me a bitch, which I found extremely distressing.”

Mr Bradshaw denied acting in any way but professionally throughout the investigations he conducted.

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