Pam Stubbs is one of more than 700 branch managers wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting by the Post Office for errors in its own computer system.
The story has been dramatised in ITV’s Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which aired this week – and features Lesley Nicol as Pam Stubbs. Mrs Stubbs, who ran Barkham’s Post Office and is chair of the parish council, said villagers had told her they found the story ‘absolutely heartbreaking’.
“I’d already seen it at a pre-screening and I ended up in tears,” she told Bracknell News. “It didn’t get any easier watching it at home. It is a hard watch.”
She added: “I’ve been told by several people in the village that they found it very difficult and had to turn it off. They said it was absolutely heartbreaking.”
The Post Office Horizon scandal has been described as one of the most widespread miscarriages of justice in history, with 736 sub-postmasters prosecuted based on faulty information.
The Horizon computer system was introduced to Post Offices for tasks such as transactions, accounting and stocktaking. From the beginning sub-postmasters complained of errors in the system after it reported shortfalls amounting to many thousands of pounds.
But the Post Office denied there were widespread faults – and instead blamed sub-postmasters for the supposedly missing money.
Mrs Stubbs began having trouble with Horizon after she moved her Post Office into a temporary cabin 2009 while a new building was constructed – with the system reporting variances of thousands of pounds.
The Post Office sent auditors to investigate on two occasions. Neither could explain the variances – and the second even admitted that a glitch in the Horizon system had recorded a loss of £376.66 more than he had recorded himself.
Yet Post Office stuck with Horizon’s figures and suspended Mrs Stubbs in June 2010 – leaving her with almost no income and fearing prosecution.
“I was left hanging in the air and waiting for someone to come and knock on the door and arrest me,” she said. “It was a fairly difficult time when the Post Office kicked me out.
“I was still trying to eke out a living from the shop and I had a period of ill health. Everything got too much and I had a period of four years when I was in and out of the hospital for one reason or another.”
Despite being suspended, Mrs Stubbs wasn’t among those prosecuted. She believes this is because she had kept her own paper records of each transaction during the time she had problems with Horizon.
Then, when she joined others in taking action against the Post Office, the company released previously withheld ‘balance entries’ that indicated problems with the Horizon system.
Eventually, Mrs Stubbs gave evidence to the successful court case to have the convictions overturned in 2021. She says if she hadn’t kept her own records and been prepared to fight, she could have ended up having to pay some £40,000 to the Post Office.
She said: “The Post Office decided that I was just one old lady running the branch on my own. What they didn’t realise is that I was a stroppy old woman and wasn’t going to cave in.”