By Sima Kotecha and Hollie ColeBBC Newsnight
More than a dozen sub-postmasters and postmistresses who were victims of armed robberies were told to pay back the stolen money, the BBC has heard.
One said the Post Office wanted him to pay back £2,000 that robbers had stolen, after it spent five years refusing to upgrade his security.
BBC Newsnight knows of 15 others who experienced similar treatment, nine of whom have spoken directly about it.
The Post Office said it had significantly enhanced victim support.
"Whenever there is an incident of crime, we take the lessons from that to help improve the security for all postmasters across our network," its spokesperson added.
Jonathan Brenton took on the Post Office branch in Charing, Kent, in 2011.
In January 2012, armed robbers gained entry to his shop after they charged through a security door.
After the incident, Mr Brenton wrote to the then-chief executive of the Post Office, Paula Vennells, detailing the "horrific" armed robbery.
He detailed how he and his partner had knives held to their throats.
"We were petrified... you have a second to react. You're meant to be in a secure area. These people had got in there within seconds. And it wasn't about protecting the money, it was just trying to protect our lives."
'No concern about us at all'
He told BBC Newsnight the perpetrators took about £2,000.
The Post Office wrote to him the following month to tell him he was liable for £1,705.31 of the stolen money and that he would need to pay it back.
"The tone of that letter was appalling," Mr Brenton says. "There was no concern about us at all. All they wanted was to get as much money off us as possible."
Mr Brent's contract, which has been seen by BBC Newsnight, stated that sub-postmasters are responsible for monetary losses of "all kinds", and "deficiencies due to such losses must be made good without delay".
After seeking legal advice and writing a public letter to Mrs Vennells, the organisation stopped asking him to pay for the stolen money.
Mr Brent said he and his partner felt "ignored" by the Post Office, after telling them about their security worries for several years.
"We were desperately telling them the effect on our mental health was very, very damaging. It just felt like they didn't care. It felt like we were worthless and an inconvenience."
'I'll never forgive them'
Lesley Pearsall from Birmingham worked for the Post Office as a sub-postmistress for 45 years and experienced an armed robbery in her branch in 2008.
She said there were two robbers, one of which had a sledgehammer that she says he was swinging around his head.
They smashed the glass screen at the service counter and tried to break into the safe, Ms Pearsall explained. The pair stole nearly £10,000 and the Post Office said she was liable for £6,000.
She said the Post Office was not concerned and seemed "angry towards us" about the stolen money. Ms Pearsall said it blamed the security measures in her post office.
"We expected to have backup and sympathy, and we didn't get it," she said.
A letter from March 2008, seen by Newsnight, shows Ms Pearsall attended an appeal hearing where she gave evidence for why she should not have to pay the Post Office the stolen money.
It says that following the hearing, it had decided she did not need to pay the £6,000.
The 77-year-old said she would "never forgive them for the way they treated us when they should have been supporting us".
Barrister Patrick Green KC spoke to Newsnight about the sub-postmasters contracts with the Post Office.
He said they were ruled to be "unfair" in the Alan Bates v Post Office case in 2019, which he was involved in and has since been turned into an ITV drama.
The case involved 555 sub-postmasters and postmistresses who were accused of stealing money because of incorrect information provided by a computer system called Horizon.
In 2019, the Post Office agreed to pay them £58m in compensation.
Mr Green said the judge in that case decided it was "for (the) Post Office to prove that losses had been caused by the fault of the sub-postmasters - not the other way around, as (the) Post Office had insisted for years".
A Post Office spokesperson said it had made "significant enhancements" to support for those working in branches who are victims of "attempted or actual robberies".
This includes a security helpdesk for postmasters available at every hour and on every day of the year, and face-to-face visits from a security manager after robbery incidents.
"We work with postmasters to ensure that safes and secure area doors are closed and locked, and that cash in any tills is kept to an absolute minimum to meet operational needs," they added.
The spokesperson said criminal incidents had "reduced over the years" due to "better security equipment and improved security procedures in branches".
Additional reporting by Jed Neill, Rosemary Macklam, and Tom Brooks-Pollock.
Watch the story on BBC Newsnight on BBC2 at 22:30 GMT and on BBC iPlayer.
Post Office Ltd
Based on the information provided, it seems that the user is looking for information related to the concepts mentioned in the article about sub-postmasters and postmistresses being asked to pay back stolen money after experiencing armed robberies. The user's request does not indicate a specific question, so I will provide an overview of the concepts mentioned in the article.
Sub-postmasters and Postmistresses
Sub-postmasters and postmistresses are individuals who operate post offices on behalf of the Post Office. They are responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the post office, including handling transactions, providing postal services, and ensuring the security of the premises.
Armed robberies refer to criminal incidents where individuals use weapons or the threat of violence to steal money or valuables from a person or establishment. In the context of the article, sub-postmasters and postmistresses were victims of armed robberies at their post offices.
Post Office Treatment of Victims
According to the article, more than a dozen sub-postmasters and postmistresses who were victims of armed robberies were asked by the Post Office to pay back the stolen money. This treatment caused distress and frustration among the victims, who felt that the Post Office prioritized financial recovery over their well-being and safety.
Security Upgrades and Responsibility
The article mentions that some sub-postmasters faced difficulties in getting the Post Office to upgrade their security measures. The contracts of sub-postmasters often include clauses stating that they are responsible for monetary losses and deficiencies due to such losses. However, legal challenges have been made against the fairness of these contracts, and in some cases, the Post Office has been found to be at fault.
Compensation and Legal Cases
The article briefly mentions the Alan Bates v Post Office case, which involved 555 sub-postmasters and postmistresses who were accused of stealing money due to incorrect information provided by a computer system called Horizon. In 2019, the Post Office agreed to pay £58 million in compensation to the affected individuals. The case highlighted the need for the Post Office to prove that losses were caused by the fault of the sub-postmasters, rather than the other way around.
It is important to note that the information provided is based on the article mentioned in the user's request. For more detailed and up-to-date information, I recommend referring to the original article or conducting further research on the topic.