Children of wrongly convicted sub-postmasters seeking 'family fund' for Post Office scandal

By John Mercury April 7, 2024

The children of some of the sub-postmasters caught up in the Post Office scandal are calling for a “family fund” for the impact their parents’ wrongful convictions and financial collapse had on their lives.

More than 700 sub-postmasters and mistresses had their reputations ruined by allegations of theft and false accounting, with many left bankrupt or in prison, as a result of a computer system called Horizon.

Between 1999 and 2015, many people who ran branches were found guilty, and despite years of campaigning, just 95 have had their convictions quashed.

Now, their children want financial support to “redress the chances that were taken from us growing up”.

Campaign group Lost Chances for the Children of Sub-Postmasters was set up in the wake of the scandal to support children over 18 affected by their parents’ wrongful convictions.

They are calling for what they call a “family fund” which will include some financial assistance, including counselling and travel bursaries.

The group is run by Katie Downey, whose family started a new life in France after her father Tony Downey was affected by the Post Office’s faulty Horizon software.

She’s urging Fujitsu, which provided the Horizon IT system to the Post Office, to meet with her.

Supporting the campaign is Adi Misra, whose pregnant mother Seema was wrongly imprisoned for nearly five months.

Adi Misra
Image:
Adi Misra

He also wants assistance, and told Sky News the toll of his mother’s wrongful conviction for stealing £75,000 led him to “contemplate committing suicide”.

His mother was sent to prison on his 10th birthday, which left him questioning “what’s the point of living when my mum is not there?”

Seema and Adi Misra
Image:
Adi Misra with his mother Seema in 2013

He said: “We want to raise our voices and show that we have been impacted as well.

“We are seeking compensation as well in the sense of, like, educational grants, counselling, travel bursaries, things that, really affected us, you know, in our childhoods.”

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Sam Fowles, a lawyer at Cornerstone Barristers, who helped overturn some of the sub-postmasters wrongful convictions told Sky News it would be difficult for the sub-postmasters’ children to be lawfully granted compensation.

He said: “I think they might face a bit of an uphill battle from a legal perspective, but they’ve got a clear moral case.

“There are two problems from a legal perspective. The first is that we have this concept in English law that’s known as remoteness.

“And that means the further you are away from the direct harm caused by the thing that went wrong, the less likely you are to receive compensation.”

Barrister Sam Fowles
Image:
Barrister Sam Fowles

Some of the sub-postmasters are, themselves, still yet to receive their full and final payments.

Mr Misra says his mother is still waiting, and it continues to have a profound impact on her.

He said: “She hasn’t recovered. I don’t think she will recover. She is also scarred for life as well. The fact that she was genuinely about to commit suicide, it’s heartbreaking.”

Fujitsu said in a statement: “We are in discussions with the legal representatives of victims who have core participant status in Sir Wyn Williams’ inquiry with regard to future meetings.”

Read more:
More than £1m claimed as Post Office ‘profit’ may have come from sub-postmasters
Post Office to be removed from Horizon compensation process, minister says

The Post Office directed Sky News to the Department for Business and Trade when asked for comment.

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson said: “We take a variety of issues into account when assessing compensation to postmasters. This includes joint losses where family members of postmasters have been affected – for example, if a family home has been lost.

“We are also discussing the Advisory Board’s proposals of mental health support for individuals and family members of Post Office victims.”

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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