The BBC reports that more than 140 MPs have withdrawn their support for a mediation scheme set up to address disputes between the Post Office and its sub-postmasters.
The scheme, set up following an investigation into the Post Office’s IT system, offered an opportunity for sub-postmasters to challenge allegations of fraud and false accounting. Sub-postmasters are not directly employed by the Post Office but operate under contract, which stipulates that they must make up any shortfall. More than 150 complained that they were wrongly prosecuted or made to repay supposed shortfalls that resulted from faults in the IT system. As a result of prosecution, some sub-postmasters have lost their homes and their life savings; some have gone to jail. Many sub-postmasters contacted their MPs for help. The interim report of the investigators, Second Sight, published in July 2013, found no evidence of systemic problems with the software but did identify ‘bugs’ that gave rise to 76 branches being affected by incorrect balances. The resulting mediation scheme was set up in August 2013.
James Arbuthnot MP, who was involved in establishing the inquiry and the mediation scheme, says the Post Office rejects more than 90% of applications for mediation. The website of the Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance indicates that the mediation scheme operated between August and November 2013.