Former Post Office worker says she was left homeless following false conviction

Post Office sign
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A former Post Office worker has told of how she was left homeless with her then young daughter after being wrongfully convicted due to flaws with the computer system.

Scandalous treatment

Lisa Brennan, is among more than 700 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses (SPMs) prosecuted based on information from the Horizon IT system, installed and maintained by Fujitsu between 2000 and 2014. In December 2019, a High Court judge ruled that Horizon contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

Brennan, who was a counter clerk at a Post Office in Huyton, near Liverpool, was wrongly convicted of the theft of just over £3,000 in 2003 despite pleading not guilty. Although she avoided jail, Brennan said it was the “end” of her world, leading to financial difficulty and the end of her marriage.

She went on:

All I’d ever known from the age of 16 was the Post Office and then just to be told ‘you’re a thief’ is horrible.

Read on...

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After the conviction, Brennan attempted to take an overdose but said “nobody really cared” or reached out because of her criminal record. She said she drank “a lot” of vodka and wine to “numb” what she had been through.

Describing how she became homeless, Brennan said:

I had to sell the house, I couldn’t afford the mortgage. I stayed at my mum’s on the couch and my daughter Jess just had the spare room – I was sofa surfing.

She described relying on family members for food, and would often go hungry so her daughter could eat. Talking about her ordeal, Brennan added:

It’s scandalous, it should never have happened. I wasn’t the only one but that’s what I was told: ‘It’s only you, you’re the only one.’ I remember them (Post Office investigators) saying that: ‘It’s only you.’

Post Office court case
Former subpostmasters outside the the Royal Courts of Justice, London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Broken”

Mother-of-three Janine Powell, 50, a former subpostmistress in Tiverton in Devon, cried during the inquiry as she recounted her ordeal after being accused of stealing around £71,000. Powell revealed she felt “broken” after being sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2008 as she would have to leave her children aged 10 to 18.

She said she spent around 23 hours a day in prison due to short staffing.

Post box
The victims’ ordeal was described as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in recent British history (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Powell continued:

It had a big impact. You have to declare obviously that you’ve got a criminal record. When you try to explain (to employers) it’s a ‘no’ straight away, so I couldn’t work.

She self-harmed and had suicidal thoughts and her relationship with her children became strained, the probe heard.

Staff blamed

The inquiry, which is expected to run for the rest of this year, is looking into whether the Post Office knew about faults in the IT system and will also ask how staff were made to take the blame. Jason Beer QC, counsel to the inquiry, said during his opening that the ordeal of those affected could be concluded as “the worst miscarriage of justice in recent British legal history”.

The inquiry also heard from Damian Owen, from Anglesey in Wales, who was the manager of a post office, was audited in 2010 and later jailed for eight months after being accused of stealing £25,000. Owen said he sought help for his mental wellbeing and began working “bottom of the rung” jobs because of his criminal record.

Asked what he wants from the Post Office, the witness said:

I want some decent money, a decent apology and I want there to be convictions for the people who have perpetuated the whole conspiracy inside the Post Office. You know everyone from the top down knew and were pushing the charges.”

“Humiliated”

Also giving evidence was mother-of-one Margery Lorraine Williams, 55, from Anglesey, Wales, who tearfully said she was left to pick up a bill of just over £14,000 because of the system fault. She had owned her post office in Llanddaniel Fab near Llangefni since 2009, but in 2011 auditors suspended her licence before she was convicted of four counts of fraud.

Williams told the inquiry she had pleaded guilty because she did not want to go to jail and leave behind her daughter, who was 10 at the time. She spoke of being “humiliated” after receiving a 52-week prison term suspended for 18 months.

Williams said:

It was horrendous because it was like a little village for us and my daughter had grown up there from one to the age of nearly 11.

Asked what she wants from the Post Office, Williams added:

I want them to go to jail for what they’ve done, but then that would be an easy life for them. They’d come out and still have their money. I want them to feel the way I felt and the way I have struggled financially.

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  • Show Comments
    1. Blair and Brown deliberately Shafted the Postmasters with a Fake IT System by Horizen; which drained Accounts after Working Hours. “The Computer is Always Right”. Staff were Arrested and Convicted of Non-Existant Theft. The Executives were Rewarded with Millions in Blood Money. Postmasters lost their Jobs,Homes ,Marriages and ended up in Prison ,after being Told to Plead Guilty. Government Fraud, Theft and False Imprisonment. Where was Blair and Brown`s `Duty of Care`. War Criminals and Robbers and Persecutors of their Own People.

    2. Post Office personnel responsible for this fiasco should be heavily fined & jailed with similar terms inflicted on the victims. The fine money should be put into a Victim Trust Fund & Fujitsu sued for an eye-watering amount which should join the sum in the Trust Fund, This should then be distributed among the victims.
      This is Tory UKania of course & none of this will happen.

    3. This is a email I sent all Govt leader just now dated 16.2.2022

      GOOD DAY
      Boris–will heads roll in Govt parties if found member were involved in this scam or crime if you like sir YES OR NO?

      For British Tory Govt if your not one of the people being blamed and made into criminals
      By our unjust Tory Govt Minister not keeping an eye on the rich well off business people
      That may fund our Govt parties privately,That are Trying to screw us British worker over day in day while they live in other country within the E.U.,What is Mr Sunak + Boris going to do to help get the victims of this scam full justice.
      Compensation is Not justice Boris -Mr Sunak FULL -STOP!!

      Money cannot be aloud to cover up this injustice the rich business people should be held fully to account Also all Govt member involved in dealing with the rich business people from outside the U.K. area That run this Scam I.T. APP serves (If any involved)
      /////////////
      https://www.theguardian.com/
      LINK to post 16.2.202
      Wrongly convicted Post Office workers say former bosses should face jail
      Victims of scandal give evidence on second day of inquiry into human impact of Horizon IT system failings.
      Not a bad article for a change residents of U.K.
      It dose ask some good & bad question but doesn’t address them fully
      Like the people that suffered and died under this Bad I.T. APPS serves
      THAT WAS not address WHY?

      Also, any Govt party M.P.+ Minister that had dealing with the rich business people involved in this trashy proven failed I.T. APP problem should also be held to fully account (if any Govt members were involved) they must have known about the problem but did nothing about it WHY?

      We also need to be asking if any Banker from outside the U.K. were involved in this mess as the money was passed,From A-B by a bank account I.D. number so the people collecting the money should have clocked this problem a long time before it got to the bad state of prosecution of the innocent worker at the post Office shops.
      Concluding
      Tory Govt + Police + the Banks need to dig deeper into this unjust criminal act yes a crime was committed But not by the Post Office staff but other people involved in this I.T. APP scam that may live outside the U.K. area Some were on a Sunny beach laughing at the people that suffered in U.K.

    4. This are crimes committed by the PO management who were in the know for years, along with Hitachi who knew there were problems with their Horizon software….tech employees reported this.
      No one to my knowledge has been charged yet with these crimes, Paula Venal (sorry Vennells), CEO who ‘stepped down’ before the shit even approached the fan, and up and away to another top, well-paid post.
      The human suffering caused is monumental. The attempt to have the judge sacked and replaced in the long-running, on-off court case was another crime, this time fronted by one of our ‘world class’ legal practices. Corruption throughout.

    5. Although hers was not such a criminal case, whenever I hear how relieved people are when someone is charged with a reviled crime — ‘Did they catch him? They did? Well, that’s a relief!’ — I mentally hear the phrase, ‘We’ll give ’im a fair trial, then we’ll hang ’im.’

      If I point out he may be the wrong guy who’s being railroaded, I could receive the erroneous refrain, ‘Well if he’s truly innocent, he has nothing to worry about.’ It’s why I strongly feel the news-media should refrain from publishing the identity of people charged with a crime — especially one of a repugnant nature, for which they are jailed pending trial (as is typically done) — until at least after they’ve been convicted?

      Considering the potential flaws, even corruption, in the law-enforcement/justice system — great injustices committed, both hidden and exposed — no one should have their name permanently tarnished and life potentially ruined because the news-media insists upon immediately running a breaking story. It’s like an unjust presumption of guilt.

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