Man’s anger after being locked inside town centre bank

Stephen Smith outside the Halifax bank in the Carfax, Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1715458 SUS-170627-162003001
Stephen Smith outside the Halifax bank in the Carfax, Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1715458 SUS-170627-162003001

A disabled man was left anxious and angry after being locked inside a town centre bank when he popped in to use a cash machine.

Stephen Smith, of Park Way, Horsham, went into the Halifax in Horsham’s Carfax to withdraw some money when two exterior cash machines were not working.

“The one inside was not working either and I went to leave - and found I had been locked in the bank,” said Stephen, 56, who was left disabled and has to walk with the aid of a stick since suffering a stroke.

“When I said I wanted to leave, they said I couldn’t because they were doing something to the cash machine,” said Stephen. “I was just locked in with no warning.”

He complained to the manager, he said, and was allowed to leave two or three minutes later, but felt that he had been detained against his will.

He said he was later told that it was the bank’s policy to lock the premises when opening their cash machines - but said he worried someone else could be locked in in similar circumstances because no warning was given.

“It just seems wrong to me,” said Stephen who now plans to raise the matter with Horsham MP Jeremy Quin.

He later complained about being detained against his will to Sussex Police but was informed that they considered no offence had been committed.

Following a letter of complaint to the Halifax, in a reply, Stephen was offered £25 “as a gesture for the upset we have caused you.”

And, in their reply to Stephen, the Halifax said: “When there is a problem with the cash machine, they (staff) do have to close the doors whilst the machine is opened to prevent anyone walking in and attempting to steal the cash.”

A Halifax spokesman said it was not possible to comment on individual cases without the individual’s permission because of ‘data protection laws.’

But he added: “For the purposes of security and safety of customers and colleagues, it is sometimes necessary to lock branch doors during opening hours, particularly when money is in transition.

“As a courtesy, we aim to advise customers in the branch prior to the branch closing and we would also delay closing the door if a customer asks to be let out.

“The doors are re-opened as soon as the activity is complete, which is within a matter of minutes.”