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TV news focuses on plight of sub-postmistress

First there was the television drama depicting the plight of those whose lives were ruined by the Post Office scandal.

Now Congleton sub-post mistress Jane Bostock-Gibson has herself appeared on television screens to describe how she has been paying out of her own pocket for miscalculations that she said continued to be made by the Horizon computer at her Hightown branch.

A camera crew from “Granada Reports” was at the busy post office – Congleton’s only remaining independent branch – on Monday morning after a “Chronicle” reader had been in touch to inform the broadcaster about our front-page story in Thursday’s edition.

That was the first time 56-year-old Mrs Bostock-Gibson had spoken about the scandal and how it had impacted her.

She said she had had not watched the hit ITV drama “Mr Bates vs the Post Office” which sparked nationwide outrage about the way sub-postmasters had been prosecuted incorrectly for fraud due to bugs in the Horizon computer system, “because it was too much to bear”.

But Mrs Bostock-Gibson said that she too had lost money due to miscalculations by Horizon. “All you get told is you are being investigated and you’ve got to pay the money,” she had said, adding: “It happened again last week. It’s a reasonably regular occurrence.

I’ve got hardened to it. I’ve had to dig into my own pocket to put the money back.”

The Post Office has described the latest version of Horizon as “robust”.

On Monday, there was a steady stream of customers popping in and out of the small but homely post office and shop on Biddulph Road as the television news crew prepared to let her tell her story to a wider audience.

Customers squeezed past as Mrs Bostock-Gibson described her situation.

“Granada Reports” mentioned how she was being investigated for a £3,500 deficit in lottery takings.

But Hightown’s sub-postmistress of eight years explained that after checking and double checking, she was certain the losses were down to Horizon – and she wanted her employers to believe her.

She said: “They want to listen to the postmasters and believe what we tell them is the truth. The system is no good. I know it will take years for it to be replaced but they should listen to us and we shouldn’t have to keep paying out of our own pockets.”

“Granada Tonight” reporter Jennifer Buck said that Mrs Bostock-Gibson “feels depressed and frustrated at always covering losses and being told by the Post Office that it must be her fault”.

Mrs Bostock-Gibson added: “They used to say it was me who couldn’t concentrate enough and was pressing the wrong buttons. Sometimes there’s been big amounts of money missing and other times a little amount of money.”

When asked how much she had been paying back she said that over eight years “it must have been thousands” but that she hadn’t “put a claim in”.

Said Mrs Bostock-Gibson: “I only want to make people aware that other postmasters have suffered – and are still suffering.”

Referring to the overnight success of the ITV drama “Mr Bates v the Post Office” she explained: “If I hadn’t heard about it, I would have just kept putting the money in.”

Asked why, she responded: “Because that’s what you’re brainwashed with. As a postmaster, if you are wrong, you have to pay it in.”

The Post Office Federation said other sub-postmasters in Mrs Bostock Gibson’s position should come forward.

Calum Greenhow, CEO of the National Federation of Sub-postmasters, said: “Nobody should be suffering in silence today. That is the simple reality. Nobody should be afraid to come forward and hold their hand up say look ‘I’ve got an error, I cannot explain it’.”

When asked why she had decided to speak out now, Mrs Bostock-Gibson said: “Because I thought if Mr Bates could do it Jane Bostock-Gibson could do it!”

The investigation into the loss of takings at Hightown Post Office could take up to nine months.

Her story was the top item on Monday evening’s main “Granada News” programme.
Mrs Bostock Gibson said customers were “quite surprised” when they read in the “Chronicle” last week about how she was forking out of her own pocket for miscalculations made by Horizon.

“Until then I’d kept it to myself. It’s not something you like to broadcast, is it?” she added.

Last week, a Post Office spokesperson told the “Chronicle”: “We are very sorry to hear of the experience our postmistress for Hightown Post Office is having at the moment.

“Our dedicated area manager has been in recent contact over the phone with the postmistress to discuss her issues and talk through what support is available.

“There have been several versions of Horizon since its introduction in 1999 and the current version of the system, introduced from 2017, was found in the group litigation to be robust, relative to comparable systems.”

Speaking as he left the post office on Monday, regular customer Phil Dale, of Doreen Avenue, Mossley, said of the Post Office scandal: “It’s bloody disgusting. It’s all wrong and I think someone should go to jail for what’s happened.”

And he praised Mrs Bostock-Gibson: “I come in here to get my lottery tickets and my daughter uses the post office as well. Jane is absolutely brilliant.”

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