Former West Boldon postmaster boycotts Government review into Post Office Horizon row
Christopher Head, who ran the West Boldon Post Office from 2006-2015 from the age of just 18, was among hundreds of sub-postmasters accused of fraud and theft by the Post Office over the last two decades.
In December 2019 he was one of 550 in the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance, who won their case against the company in a £58 million settlement (£46 million of which is said to have gone to cover the legal costs of the action).
But Mr Head, now 32, who claims to have lost £100,000 as a result of flaws in the Horizon IT system has called for an independent inquiry to hold those responsible to account.
His petition, which gathered more than 5,000 signatures, was handed into Downing Street before the lockdown was imposed in March.
This week, Business Minister Paul Scully committed to carrying out an independent review into the Post Office, to consider whether it has “learned the necessary lessons” from the case.
But Mr Head said the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance will not be cooperating in the review, and will not settle for “anything less” than the judge-led inquiry that has been called for.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to agree to an inquiry in parliament on February 24, when he promised to “get to the bottom of the scandal” in response to questions from Ms Osborne.
“I’ve been fighting for this every day of my life for the last three years and I won’t settle for anything less than what was promised,” said Mr head.
“There has to be an independent inquiry and someone has to be held accountable.”
"It’s not just about me, it’s for everybody involved, some people were affected a lot worse than I was.
“Postmasters sit on huge losses, we have no businesses, no livelihoods, reputational damage, illnesses, mental health issues and some even lost their lives.”
In response to further questioning in parliament on Wednesday, June 10 the Business Minister insisted that a review would “get to the bottom” of it, he said: “The terms of reference of this independent review are wide enough and deep enough to get to the bottom of what happened. An independent judge has already looked at this and built up a body of evidence and other views, which will be then be looked at as a complement to the review.”
The Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance are currently attempting to raise £98,000 in order fund legal representation to take their complaint to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Mr Head added: “It’s going to be put on the back burner because of coronavirus and we understand that it is affecting everyone, but people have waited 20 years already, some of them might not be around to see justice at this rate.”
The Jarrow MP commented: “A review is welcome news, but it must hold those responsible to account and justice must be served to those who have been impacted during this scandal.”