Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 13:14 UK

MP's post office accounts doubts

Noel Thomas
Noel Thomas was jailed but claims the computer system was faulty

An MP is seeking a Commons debate over a Post Office computer system as a jailed sub-postmaster tries to prove he is innocent of false accounting.

Noel Thomas, of Anglesey, was imprisoned for nine months in 2006 after admitting the offences.

But he has told BBC Wales he did not take a penny and the offences arose because the computer system was faulty.

The Post Office denied there were any problems and said the system dealt with millions of transactions every day.

The Taro Naw programme, broadcast on S4C, is highlighting similar cases across Britain, including one in the constituency of Clwyd West MP David Jones.

My image was in tatters and I lost a lot of respect and that was a lot to deal with
Noel Thomas

"I'm sure something's going on and the Post Office need to answer the questions that these people are asking. I am going to ask for a debate at the House of Commons," said Mr Jones.

Mr Thomas, a former county councillor, told Welsh language current affairs programme Taro Naw that problem first began to emerge when he found his weekly computerised accounts were showing takings higher than cash in the till.

He said he rang the computer helpline several times and asked the Post Office to research the matter further.

Mr Thomas claimed the response from the Post Office was lukewarm until the mis-balance reached £48,000 and a financial audit was taken.

Mr Thomas, who was the sub-postmaster at Gaerwen at the time, said: "I lost some friends. My image was in tatters and I lost a lot of respect and that was a lot to deal with.

"But that's when you find out who your friends are, when you are in trouble."

'Robust'

He said he pleaded guilty as he had 'signed off' each days takings, so technically he was claiming that everything was correct.

He did this because he assumed that the matter would be sorted out, he added.

This, he says, was the only way the post office could remain open, as if he had refused to sign off the paper work each day it would have been closed while an investigation was carried out.

Even though he claimed he did not take any money personally, the court ordered him to repay £9,500 - because his contract stated he was ultimately responsible for the post office takings.

He said he had given up proving his innocence until he received a phone call last year from retired senior probation officer Roch Garrard who said the same thing had happened to his local postmistress in Hampshire.

He said he had found a lot of middle aged, middle class people who had never put a foot wrong who were "suddenly turned into these criminals".

"It didn't make sense to me so I started to contact some of them and said to them 'this is what happened to our postmistress, what happened to you' and the stories were all so similar that I thought there must be something wrong," he said.

Journalists from the programme spoke to 31 other postmasters - past and present - who had or still have similar complaints, with more names still coming in.

The Post Office denied there were any problems with the computer system.

It said the system was robust and dealt with millions of transactions every day and the Post Office had won several court cases proving this.

Taro Naw: Tuesday, 8 September, BBC Wales on S4C, 2130 BST



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SEE ALSO
Jailed postmaster to repay funds
19 Apr 07 |  North West Wales
Councillor jailed for nine months
06 Nov 06 |  North West Wales


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