Karl Flinders

Post Office Capture users’ campaign for justice gathers pace

The government is taking Post Office Capture allegations seriously as former subpostmasters seek answers

Former Post Office workers who experienced problems with the Post Office’s pre-Horizon Capture software are taking their campaign for justice to Parliament.

Two former subpostmasters, whose lives were turned upside down after they suffered unexplained losses while using Capture, have secured meetings with a government minister and a senior civil servant at the Department for Business and Trade.

The department’s director of business resilience, Carl Cresswell, has agreed to an online meeting with former subpostmaster and Capture user Steve Lewis  to discuss the software system. The meeting was arranged by MP Kevan Jones, who has campaigned for decades for justice for subpostmasters who fell victim to Horizon errors and more recently for former users of the Capture system.

Cresswell recently appeared before a Parliamentary select committee to answer questions about the Horizon financial redress schemes available to victims of the Horizon scandal.

The Department for Business and Trade had not responded to Computer Weekly questions when this article was published.

Picture of a Post Office-branded Capture installation disk
Post Office-branded Capture installation disk


Meanwhile, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake has agreed to meet Steve Marston, a former subpostmaster in Bury, Lancashire, after a request from his local MP in Taunton Deane, Rebecca Pow.

Pow said: “I’ve been reassured by the minister that his department is in active discussions with the Post Office about the allegations surrounding the predecessor system to Horizon. I look forward to the meeting so that my constituent’s voice can be properly heard by government.”

After ITV’s drama about the long-running Post Office Horizon scandal was broadcast in January, former Post Office branch managers have come forward to reveal they suffered similar problems with Capture, which pre-dated the controversial Horizon system.

The cases of Lewis and Marston were revealed by MP Jones, who was contacted by the two former subpostmasters following the TV drama.

Lewis had worked for the Post Office since 1983, originally as a counter clerk, and was a Post Office auditor for a number of years.

When he suffered unexplained losses, he was told by the Post Office that he was an isolated case. He lost his business, had to sell his home and suffered mental health issues, with related relationship troubles.

Lewis said it is a positive sign that the government “appears” to be taking the Capture issues seriously. “They seem to be looking at it in a similar way to Horizon. Like with the Horizon scandal, we suffered trauma and loss.”

Marston was prosecuted in 1996 for theft and false accounting following an unexplained shortfall of nearly £80,000. He said he had never had any problems using the paper-based accounting system. This changed when his branch, which he ran from 1973, began using the Capture system.

Marston said he felt pressured into using the system at a time when many branches were being closed by the Post Office. He’d had no problems for two decades using manual accounting processes, but within two years of using Capture he ran up a debt of £79,000.

He covered the losses with his own money, but it kept getting worse. After an audit revealed a loss he couldn’t fully cover out of his own pocket, he was advised to plead guilty to theft and fraud to avoid jail. The judge took into account two bravery awards Marston had received for standing up to armed robbers, saving him a jail sentence. He was given a 12-month suspended sentence, lost his home and business, and went bankrupt.

Marston said he hopes to get justice. “We are pleased that ministers and others are taking notice. We want to know if there is a route to have my conviction overturned.”

MP Jones is now supporting the cases of 10 former subpostmasters who suffered problems with Capture, five of whom were prosecuted and sent to prison following accounting shortfalls.

He said the government is taking the Capture allegations seriously: “The government appears determined to get to the bottom of this. What we need now is for the Post Office to come clean with a sense of urgency.”

During the select committee hearing last month, discussing the Horizon scandal, the Post Office CEO was questioned about the organisation’s efforts to get to the bottom of the allegations around the Capture software. He told MPs at the time that the Post Office had been “working hard on it” for five weeks.

But Marston and Lewis, whose cases had been put forward by MP Jones, told Computer Weekly that the Post Office had not even been in contact with them.

• Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal

• Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story

Read all Computer Weekly articles about the scandal since 2009

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