Home Information Cases Post Office Ltd v Lee Castleton (2007)

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Post Office Ltd v Lee Castleton (2007)

Summary

A subpostmaster was liable to account for shortfalls in the post office accounts where he admitted the correctness of his entries in the accounts and where there was no evidence to show the computing system was incorrect. The post office had been entitled to determine his contract for services summarily for non-performance of his obligations.

Facts

The claimant post office claimed sums due from the defendant subpostmaster (C) on an account stated. C counterclaimed for damages for the wrongful determination of his contract. C had worked as a subpostmaster for the post office. In accordance with the rules and practice of the post office, accounts of the transactions were prepared weekly by C. Over several weeks the accounts built up substantial apparent discrepancies. An audit was carried out and a shortage of several thousand pounds was discovered. C was suspended from his duties and later dismissed. C contended that (1) the losses shown were illusory and not real and were entirely the product of problems with the computer and accounting system used by the post office; (2) the post office had wrongfully determined his contract as subpostmaster.

Held

(1) C admitted he was an accounting party and the statement of the account, though not its validity, was admitted. Accordingly, the burden of proof lay on C to show that the account was wrong. Given that C accepted the accuracy of his entries in the accounts and the correctness of the arithmetic and since, on the evidence, the logic of the computing system used at the post office was correct the inescapable conclusion was that the system was working properly in all material respects and the shortfall was real, not illusory. (2) The substantial unexplained deficiencies incurred were real deficiencies and provided irrefutable evidence that C's post office was not properly managed at the material time. Accordingly, the post office was entitled to determine C's contract summarily for non-performance of his obligations.

Judgment for claimant

Queen's Bench Division
Richard Harvey QC
Judgment date
22 January 2007
References

LTL 29/1/2007