NewsTragedy and silence. Royal Mail's role in a postmaster's despair

Tragedy and silence. Royal Mail's role in a postmaster's despair

British mail accuses employees
British mail accuses employees
Images source: © Adobe Stock | Jaroslav Moravcik

10:59 AM EDT, April 28, 2024

The British postal service attempted to downplay the tragedy of Martin Griffiths, a post office branch manager who tragically ended his life. This incident adds to the grim toll Royal Mail has faced, stemming from accusations tied to a debacle involving defective software.

Angela van den Bogerd, a former Royal Mail business improvement director, underwent questioning in a public inquiry into the Horizon IT system's failings. Her interrogation shed light on Griffiths' case, who passed away in 2013 after discrepancies emerged at his Cheshire post office branch - this was reported by "The Guardian".

Griffiths and his mother contacted Royal Mail for support, sharing that he was under "immense pressure" due to a financial mismatch of approximately £39,000 ($50,000). He attributed the deficit to glitches in the software. Griffiths' parents had depleted their life savings during the probe to rectify these supposed discrepancies.

Furthermore, following an armed heist at his branch, Royal Mail held Griffiths accountable for £7,500 (around $9,600) and criticized him for security lapses.

In the aftermath of these events, Griffiths made a suicide attempt in September 2013. Despite being rescued, he succumbed to his condition in hospital a few weeks later, "The Guardian" noted.

Royal Mail proposed a £140,000 ($180,000) settlement to Griffiths' widow, Gina, under the condition that she signs a non-disclosure agreement.

The settlement included staged payments - a strategy seemingly designed to ensure the widow's silence on the matter. The approach indicated that the payments would be dispersed gradually to ensure her silence remained intact.

An email from Alan Bates, a fellow postmaster, to Royal Mail leadership on the day of Griffiths' suicide attempt was disclosed during the inquiry.

He described Griffiths' ordeal as a clear case of bullying toward staff. He noted that the management's initial response was not concerned with Griffiths' well-being but to consider legal representation.

The inquiry accused the Royal Mail executive of neglecting internal communications from 2010 to 2014, exposing that not only Royal Mail but Fujitsu—the system's developers—had remote access to the IT infrastructure.

Despite critical feedback from the Supreme Court on her disregard for factual accuracy, she was awarded a bonus that year.

Royal Mail pursued numerous postmasters for financial irregularities for more than ten years, which ultimately were traced back to flaws within the Horizon system.

See also