Belfast Telegraph

Former Tyrone post office manager claims she was falsely accused of stealing £16k

Deidre Connolly. Credit: BBC.
Deidre Connolly. Credit: BBC.

A former Co Tyrone post officer manager has said that she was wrongly accused by the company of stealing £16k and had to pay it back.

Ex sub-postmistress Deidre Connolly (49) is taking part in group legal action against the company.

The BBC has reported that Mrs Connolly claimed that a mistake in the company's computer system showed a non-existent shortfall at her Killeter branch.

A group of 557 former Post Office staff are taking action against the company over concerns around the integrity of systems and processes.

The issues center around the Post Office's Horizon computer system.

However, the Post Office firmly deny the claims saying that the system is "successful" and welcomed the opportunity to defend itself against the charges in a number of ongoing and upcoming court cases.

Mrs Connolly, who no longer works for the post office, told the BBC that she was shocked when told of the discrepancy.

"There was an audit and I was told there was a discrepancy of £16,000," she said.

"I was totally shocked - I did not know what had happened or what to do, it was an awful experience.

"I was put out of the post office and had to hand the keys back that day - I had to go for interview to a fraud investigator in Omagh.

"He asked me did I steal the money, which I did not. Categorically, I did not steal the money."

She said that the episode had a large negative impact on her life.

"The business was affected - people stopped coming into the shop and business fell away," Mrs Connolly told the BBC.

"The debts mounted and we were not able to pay them. We were made bankrupt. Then I took epilepsy.

"All I want out of this is to clear my name so that I can hold my head up high and just walk up Killeter Street and not think people are looking at me as the person who took £16,000 out of their local post office, which I didn't."

Mrs Connolly's case on technical matters concerning the Horizon system is set to be heard in March 2019.

A Post Office spokesperson said that the Horizon computer system was used regularly without any issue.

“The Post Office is robustly defending its position in the court and welcomes the opportunity to do so. We take these cases extremely seriously and we have worked hard over a number of years to address the issues raised," the spokesperson said.

"We have conducted thorough investigations and sought to resolve some of the claims through mediation. It’s important to note that the claimants represent a very small proportion of users of our Horizon computer system users since 2000.

“Our employees and postmasters are important to us and we take our relationships with them very seriously. We have confidence in our network of 11,500 Post Office branches and the systems underpinning it. The Horizon computer system is operated successfully by thousands of employees, postmasters and their staff to process 47 million transactions every week.”

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