Post Office scandal: Horizon victim recalls being 'spat at by members of the public'

  • Here's a summary of the scandal so far.

Victims of the Post Office scandal have spoken of the "hell" they went through when they were falsely accused of embezzling thousands of pounds.

More than 700 Post Office (PO) branch managers were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software called Horizon made it appear as though money was missing from their shops.

There has been fresh public backlash to the scandal after ITV aired a drama starring actor Toby Jones about the scandal, also leading to victims speaking out about their experiences.

A public inquiry is underway to establish if anyone linked to the Post Office could be held responsible for the wrongful accusations. 

Penny Williams was running a PO in Manaccan, Cornwall, when she was accused of embezzling £20,000. 

Penny was accused of taking £20,000. Credit: ITV News

Not only did Penny lose her post office, but also the village pub she had run since 1997 because she was made bankrupt from the scandal. 

The impact of the scandal was felt by all of Penny's family and had a huge impact on her reputation in the community.

She said: "That’s the worst part, you come from a small community, I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, it was not a nice time.

"My children were bullied at school and I did go through a period just not feeling able to go outside the front door. You just knew everyone was talking about you. It doesn’t go away."

Penny got tearful when talking about the ITV dramatisation of the story. She said: "To have this programme out has been absolutely brilliant because everyone can see we didn’t actually do anything wrong.

"I’m alright now, but that’s not the point is it? Our lives were just kicked off into an awful period. What they did created the following years of trauma for all of us."

Wendy Buffrey, from Cheltenham, was advised to plead guilty and decided to do so, due to the threat of jail.

She was given a 150-hour community order, and said she was spat at by members of the public. During the ordeal, Wendy also lost her dad and son.

She said: "I’ll cope with it and deal with it, but I'll never forgive the Post Office for what they’ve done to us all."

Wendy said she went through "18 months of pure hell."

She said: "It’s the lack of sleep, lack of being able to cope, constant questions. I would sleepwalk and look through draws trying to find the money."

Former PO branch manager from Stroud, Nicki Arch, was found not guilty after a trial but is still waiting for compensation. 

She said: "I used to pray every morning as soon as the postman came - today's going to be the day that they find it and I’m not going to go to court and it’s all going to be over."

Nicki's story is told through the character of Sam in the ITV drama.

She said: "It’s mixed feelings, it's great that we’ve got to where we wanted to be 20 years ago. We’ve tried everything to get it into the media to get coverage and nothing’s really worked.

"We're grateful everyone is talking about this drama - we’ve got a voice."

In terms of closure, Nicki said you have to accept what happened.

She said: "Because of the length of time it’s gone on, it’s taken our adult lives and we’ll never get that time back."On 7 January, PM Rishi Sunak said: “This has been an appalling miscarriage of justice, an appalling treatment of all the people affected and it’s right that they get the redress they deserve. 

“That’s why the government has put in place three compensation schemes that have already paid out almost £100 million to thousands of people that are affected. And we’re keen to go as quickly as possible.

“There are interim payments of £600,000 to get support to people who need it quickly. And of course as I said previously, everyone who thinks they have a claim must come forward and talk to the authorities so we can get their claims processed as quickly as possible. 

“More broadly the Justice Secretary is looking at other options for how we can supply support for people. I can’t pre-empt those findings. 

“We’re keen to do everything we can because this was absolutely appalling. This should have never happened, we don’t want this to happen again, and that’s why we’re working very hard to make it right.”