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Post Office Bankrupts Postmasters Due To I T. Glitch

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From 2009:

The 40-year-old former postmaster was declared bankrupt after he refused to pay the Post Office £27,000 – money he owed because the accounts of his Post Office branch in Bridlington, Yorkshire, showed deficits over a 12-week period in 2004.

Castleton insists he did not owe the money – although it showed as a loss on the Post Office’s Horizon system, which is used by postmasters to do their accounting. He is one of several postmasters to come across losses they could not explain.

Castleton was so concerned about the debt that he refused to pay it back, and decided to go to court to contest the Post Office’s insistence that he should pay.

But the court ruled that the debt was real, not illusory as Castleton argued. “The losses must have been caused by his own error or that of his assistants,” the judge said. “It is inescapable that the Horizon system was working properly in all material respects.”

Having lost the case, Castleton was left with costs of £321,000. In 2007, he filed for bankruptcy. “I was in too deep – I see that now. The whole thing has been heartbreaking,” he says.

After an investigation of six months, Computer Weekly has discovered that at least seven postmasters have come into conflict with the Post Office after the system showed losses which took them by surprise.

http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240089230/Bankruptcy-prosecution-and-disrupted-livelihoods-Postmasters-tell-their-story

Today:

The Post Office has admitted that software defects have occurred with a computer system at the centre of a bitter dispute with some of its 11,500 sub-postmasters across the UK.

More than 100 say they were wrongly prosecuted or made to repay money after computers made non-existent shortfalls.

Some of them lost their homes as a result and a few went to prison.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23233573

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I wonder what compensation will be paid to the people they took to court?

This could add up to a lot of money for the post office to pay, that one guy was made bankrupt and his case started in 2004, what will it cost to make that right - buy him another house and restore 10 years of lost opportunities.

...and then theres another 100+ cases coming down the pipe.

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But the court ruled that the debt was real, not illusory as Castleton argued. “The losses must have been caused by his own error or that of his assistants,” the judge said. “It is inescapable that the Horizon system was working properly in all material respects.”

How an earth would a judge come to that conclusion?

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How an earth would a judge come to that conclusion?

Exactly, that's what is scandalous. Some out of touch fuddy duddy judge who can barely use a calculator makes that sort of judgement.

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How an earth would a judge come to that conclusion?

The people who control the Post Office and the people who appoint judges are one and the same. No judge would rule in favour of a postmaster and against the Post Office. There's a reason why postage stamps have a picture of the queen on them, and why pillar boxes carry the royal insignia. You argue with the world's richest woman at your peril.

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I have a real issue with large corporate or government fictional legal entities driving individuals to personal bankruptcy seems to be a complete breach of what's commonly accepted as contract law. There's nobody on the other side doing the same.

In my view 'personal guarantees' should only ever be enforceable if there is a living individual providing a personal guarantee on both sides of the contract.

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People convicted, driven to bankruptcy and now it turns out that the system can't add up after all.

Surely it would have been fairly straight forward to do an audit of cash in and out.

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People convicted, driven to bankruptcy and now it turns out that the system can't add up after all.

Surely it would have been fairly straight forward to do an audit of cash in and out.

This is the way it frequently is. Big corporation or government has a "carefully designed" system in place which "cannot be wrong".

The little man who gets caught out by a mistake in the "system" is screwed, because said corporation goes to court with the best lawyers and impressive experts who say that the "system" cannot be wrong. There are lots of examples of this:

1. Woman notices "phantom" transactions on a credit-card, apparently made with card present and PIN entered. Reports suspected fraud to bank. Subsequently arrested, charged, convicted and jailed for attempted fraud, subsequently bankrupted due to legal costs and lack of income. Bank's expert testified in court that chip and PIN cards cannot be compromised in any way, and that the only possible explanation for this story is that the lass regrets spending the money and wants it back. Security researchers subsequently demonstrate the technique that criminals were using to clone cards. Bank eventually admits that this was the likely cause of the phantom withdrawrals after a delay of a couple of years. Woman released. Bank offers compensation of £150 for inconvenience.

2. CRB checks launched. Doctor told to apply for a CRB check in order to keep his job. "Enhanced" CRB report comes back with confidential report of "concerns". Doctor sacked immediately. Asks to see report. Denied. Goes to industrial tribunal. Report examined behind closed doors, doctor and his solicitor not allowed to see it. Tribunal reports that concerns are justified, summary dismissal appropriate. No possible grounds for appeal, or for revealing the nature of the "concerns". After a 5 year legal battle, costing £500k, high court agrees to unseal the report, which when investigated is found to be a case of mistaken identity. Someone with the same name had been surveilled after using a credit card to purchase child pron. After the mistaken identity was clear, the record of surveillance should have been deleted from the police national computer, but a clerk "forgot", and subsequently the suspicion of paedophilia was reported in confidential part of the CRB check. A written apology was given, but no compensation for the legal fees or loss of income, and subsequent loss of home, etc. was given.

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How an earth would a judge come to that conclusion?

Because he/she is clearly from the school of thought that computers are never wrong!

People ought to realise that behind every system there are IT people like me and we're prone to the odd misatke ;)

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Exactly, that's what is scandalous. Some out of touch fuddy duddy judge who can barely use a calculator makes that sort of judgement.

They would ask for evidence of the balance of probabilities.

PO lawyers would say the system was used in hundred or thousands of locations with no problems.

It would be up to the defence to prove the errors...the issue is that if you are reliant on a system of maths, and it is ubiquitous, you would have to show beyond any doubt some calculations it was making were very wrong indeed.

VAT use a form of checking based on past submissions and an inspector will check against your bank statements....it should have been possible to do the same in this case.

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  • 276 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

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      • down 5% +
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      • up 5%



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