Post Office spent £320,000 pursuing legal case against postmaster over false suspicions he stole £25,000
- Lee Castleton was bankrupt when he lost a case and paid back PO’s legal costs
- 550 postmasters were affected by the defective Horizon system over 20 years
- They are sharing £58million settlement after some were wrongly jailed for fraud
The Post Office spent £320,000 suing a postmaster during a two-year legal battle after glitches in its IT system wrongly blamed him for stealing £25,000 from the till.
Lee Castleton was made bankrupt when he lost the case and was ordered to pay the Post Office’s legal costs.
About 550 postmasters affected by the defective Horizon system over the 20 years it was in operation are now sharing a £58million settlement from the Post Office after some were jailed for fraud, made bankrupt or hounded out of their jobs.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s File On 4 programme yesterday, Mr Castleton revealed how he was left humiliated after being suspended by the Post Office – which spent more than £30million chasing its former staff – because locals ‘presumed I was a thief’.
Lee Castleton (pictured) was made bankrupt when he lost the case and was ordered to pay the Post Office’s legal costs
The former stockbroker bought a Post Office branch in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, in 2003, and within months Horizon was showing that money was going missing.
He claimed he called the Post Office’s helpline nearly every day for three months, but was unable to get to the bottom of the losses.
His branch was then audited and a £25,000 shortfall was found, leading to his immediate suspension.
He said: ‘The first loss I actually repaid – well over £1,000.
‘But by the following week we had a substantial loss – it was about £4,000 – and there was just no reason for it. I made phone calls to the helplines. I had nothing to hide, but no one seemed to care.’
Post Office staff have since come forward to say senior managers had ‘zero interest’ when questions were raised about the increasing numbers of postmasters being blamed for losses.
Post Office staff have since come forward to say senior managers had ‘zero interest’ when questions were raised about the increasing numbers of postmasters being blamed for losses (stock image)
Mr Castleton, who now works as an electrical engineer, added: ‘Local people presumed I was a thief.
‘When the post office closed, the children and my wife were abused in the street, my daughter was spat at on the school bus. It was really tough for the family.’
The Criminal Cases Review Commission is examining the convictions of dozens of postmasters accused of theft and false accounting.
But the 550 postmasters who are splitting the multi-million pound payout have now joined MPs and peers in demanding an inquiry into the scandal, and how it was allowed to continue for almost two decades.
Ron Warmington, a forensic accountant hired by the Post Office in 2012 to look at the postmasters’ complaints, said: ‘These were ordinary people. They sought help but didn’t get it and were put in a situation that was life-changing.’
The Post Office said: ‘We accepted our past shortcomings and we have sincerely apologised to those affected.’