Ex-subpostmaster after scandal: ‘You can’t put a price on what we’re owed’
- Credit: Baljit Sethi
A family who ran a Romford and Brentwood Post Office are “putting pressure” on the company to pay them compensation after a scandal dating back to 2000.
Baljit Sethi, 68, and his wife Anjana, 66, were forced to give up their livelihoods after faulty computer system Horizon showed accounting errors at one of their Post Office branches.
The scandal, which happened throughout the period of 2000 to 2014, saw hundreds of subpostmasters and subpostmistresses around the country accused of crimes such as false accounting and theft, with some spending time in prison.
Earlier this year, dozens had their names cleared.
According to the Post Office, there have been around 2,500 applications to its Historical Shortfall Scheme, which was set up to help those “experiencing shortfalls” due to the errors.
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A spokesperson for the Post Office said it is "committed to fairly resolving claims" and is "keeping people updated on their cases”.
Baljit and Anjana ran the Harold Park Post Office from 1983 to 2004, and due to its success, purchased a second branch at 99 Kings Road in Brentwood, Essex, which they ran from 2001 to 2002.
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It was at this second branch - described by Baljit described as the “problem” branch - that its central computer system started to show losses.
He said: “They [the Post Office] ruined our lives and caused a lot of problems.
“Now they should try and compensate what I could not give to my children, so at least I can give something to my grandchildren when I pass away.”
In 2006, then-54-year-old Baljit could no longer work in his Post Offices and said he was forced to take low-skilled work.
He said: “I told the Post Office in 2002 when the problem arose that they needed to look into the issue of money showing at a shortage on the computer.
"They told me that they didn’t want to check and they never did.
“But after 20 years they found that what I was saying was the truth.
“We continue to wait for them to pay and now that they have introduced an independent assessment panel, which should be there to help us, but we feel sure it won’t help us at all.”
The issue started with a shortage of £17,000, which the parents of three said they flagged to the Post Office and received, in response, a letter giving them three months' notice to shut down the Brentwood branch.
Baljit said it was “God’s grace” that the system started to show a surplus balance of £40,000, and they called for the Post Office to do an audit.
He said: “We knew this wasn’t right and this wasn’t our money.
“The Post Office did an audit and were adamant that we owed them £17,000. I asked them why they hadn’t prosecuted me and they did not comment.
“I knew that if I paid it wouldn’t be the end of the story, plus I didn’t have that kind of money.
“The surplus saved us from going to court but it feels like they have now swept our case under the carpet.”
A Post Office spokesperson said: “We set up the Historical Shortfall Scheme to provide redress for those who may have experienced shortfalls related to previous versions of the computer system Horizon."
The spokesperson confirmed that around 400 compensation payments have been made so far through the scheme while other claims are progressing "with an independent panel assessing individual claims".
“We are committed to fairly resolving claims, with assessment by an independent panel, and are keeping people updated on their cases.”
Baljit continues to hope that he will receive compensation, but said: “You cannot put a price on what we are owed.
“We were completely ruined and lost our livelihoods and we have been on the verge of bankruptcy.
“We want a suitable compensation because nothing could make up for what has happened to us and how it has affected our family.”