• Sunday, April 21, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

British Indian Post Office scandal victim’s son seeks compensation

Varchas Patel’s father, Vipin, faced wrongful prosecution for discrepancies exceeding £75,000 at his branch between 2010 and 2011

A post office sign hangs above a shop in Belgravia, in London, Britain January 7, 2024. REUTERS/Hollie Adams

By: Pramod Thomas

THE son of a British Indian Post Office scandal victim has demanded compensation for the impact his father’s wrongful convictions and financial ruin had on his life.

Varchas Patel’s father, Vipin, faced wrongful prosecution for discrepancies exceeding £75,000 at his branch between 2010 and 2011.

Now, Varchas, along with other children of victims of the scandal, is seeking legal remedies for compensation from the government, reported The BBC.

Varchas revealed he was shunned by his extended family, adding that they directed their hostility towards him when they couldn’t target his father directly.

He added that prior to the scandal, he and his sister enjoyed a relatively comfortable upbringing due to their parents’ ‘hard work, seven days a week’.

However, during his father’s prosecution, Varchas assisted in providing financial support to his parents. He said that if the prosecution hadn’t occurred, he could have saved £60,000.

Also, he had to abandon a degree due to financial constraints.

“It will always be the Post Office to blame for this, not our parents. But it’s equally important for our parents and also the wider public to understand how it has affected the children,” he was quoted as saying by the broadcaster.

Between 1999 and 2015, the government-owned Post Office Ltd prosecuted over 700 postmasters for theft and false accounting. In 2022, the Post Office disclosed that out of the 316 convicted, at least 123 (39 per cent) were from black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds.

However, a recent survey indicated that the percentage might be higher, surpassing 43 per cent.

The initiative (seeking compensation) by the children of some of the victims is led by a group, spearheaded by Katie Downey.

Her family fled to France after her father, Tony, was declared bankrupt in the scandal.

Recently, the UK boss of Fujitsu, the company that supplied the faulty Horizon software to the Post Office, has agreed to meet her.

Downey initiated the group, Lost Chances for the Children of Sub-postmasters, to provide mutual support. Currently, it has 40 members, and she anticipates further growth in membership the future.

Although she believes it’s improbable for the government to provide compensation to the children of postmasters, she remains hopeful that Fujitsu might extend some assistance, the BBC report said.

At 11 years old, Downey described being abruptly taken from her cheerful childhood in Hawkshead, in the Lake District, when her family relocated to France following the scandal.

Prof Richard Moorhead, an expert in legal ethics at Exeter University, said that the children of sub-postmasters may encounter challenges when seeking compensation through legal channels.

“Legal responsibility tends to concentrate on those most directly affected by the harm,” he was quoted as saying.

“Children would ordinarily be treated as too ‘remote’ from the harms caused because it was not inflicted on them directly.”

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