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    Post Office scandal: Government warned of sub-postmasters’ vulnerable mental health

    (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    The government has been warned of some sub-postmasters’ vulnerable mental health owing to the slow pace of compensation payments, stated a recent report.

    According to NationalWorld, former sub-postmaster and campaigner Chris Head met with Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake and other officials last month to warn them of his concerns around victims’ mental health and potential suicide risk. He wants more safeguarding checks to be put in place when compensation is offered.

    Head, who was the UK’s youngest sub-postmaster in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, was under criminal and civil investigation after the faulty IT system showed cash losses of more than £80,000. He was pulled into the group litigation High Court case with Alan Bates and other sub-postmasters, as highlighted in Mr Bates vs the Post Office.

     Head says has only been offered 15 per cent of his Group Litigation Order claim by the Department for Business and Trade, and is disputing this with an independent panel. He is worried that similar offers to more vulnerable sub-postmasters could push them to the brink.

    “I’m concerned about a small number of sub-postmasters,” Head told NationalWorld. “If you make that offer to them, not knowing that they might kill themselves.

    “Some of them have gone to prison, some of them have lost their homes, some of them have family members who don’t speak to them.” He says this is why he warned Hollinrake and other government officials about his concerns in February.

    “We are still a long way away from full and fair compensation – that’s just not happening,” Head said. “This is like one big war – I’m having to battle for everything.”

    Echoing the concern, SNP’s Marion Fellows, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Post Offices, told NationalWorld, “That’s definitely one of the issues I have raised, as well as Alan Bates and Chris. Every time something else comes out in the press about the Post Office, if a sub-postmaster has been badly affected that only makes it worse.

    “The fresh allegations, the fresh evidence and at the moment the government are simply kicking the whole prosecution side of things down the road – saying they’re waiting for Sir Wyn Williams to finish his inquiry.

    “There is a real feeling amongst sub-postmasters and MPs that this is a delaying tactic on behalf of Post Office Ltd. The Select Committee heard it could take one to two years to clear up all these claims, that’s absolutely ridiculous.

    “One of the other issues of sub-postmasters affected by mental health issues is that because of Horizon they want to settle as soon as possible and as quickly as they can. That’s why a lot of them are taking the £600,000 [up front] offer [for those with criminal convictions] … they’re doing themselves a disservice because they should get far more than that. 

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