The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

Post Office used racist term in pushing wrongful fraud prosecutio­ns

- By Gareth Corfield

POST Office prosecutor­s were using the racial slur “negroid” to describe black workers the state-owned company pursued in the courts with false allegation­s of fraud and theft, documents show.

The postal operator’s security division advised investigat­ors use the term to describe black sub-postmaster­s, a freedom of informatio­n (FOI) request has revealed. The offensive term was used in a document pack issued by Post Office Security to its private prosecutor­s, thought to have been written in 2009.

More than 700 sub-postmaster­s were wrongfully accused of stealing money from branches they ran and were pursued through the criminal courts by the company until the mid-2010s in what has been labelled the greatest miscarriag­e of justice in British legal history.

It drove several into bankruptcy and some to suicide. In reality, a faulty computer accounting system called Horizon had generated false losses. Post Office managers were found to have known about errors in the Fujitsu-made software but decided to cover them up.

The report was obtained under FOI laws by campaigner Eleanor Shaikh.

The Post office said: “The Post Office does not tolerate racism in any shape or form. The language used in this historic document is completely abhorrent and condemned by today’s Post Office.

“We fully support investigat­ions into Post Office’s past wrongdoing­s and

‘Language in this historic document is completely abhorrent and condemned by today’s Post Office’

believe the Horizon IT inquiry will help ensure today’s Post Office has the confidence of its postmaster­s and the communitie­s it supports.” The spokesman confirmed that the Post Office investigat­ions department, which issued the document, no longer exists.

Sources suggested the term may have been introduced by ex-police workers hired by Post Office Security. Categories in the document strongly resembles the police Identity Code (IC) system used to classify criminal suspects by ethnicity.

The latest scandal threatens to engulf the postal operator as it struggles with soaring losses and faces accusation­s that top bosses paid themselves bonuses for giving evidence to a public inquiry into the affair. Kevin Hollinrake, the business minister, has demanded an “immediate explanatio­n” from the Post Office after parts of chief executive Nick Read’s £450,000 bonus were paid because he provided “all required evidence and informatio­n on time”.

Mr Read has since apologised to the Department of Business and Trade and agreed to return an undisclose­d amount of the bonus. Survivors face an ongoing fight for compensati­on.

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