Government funding for Post Office for interim payments in overturned Horizon convictions

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A Post Office sign is displayed outside a branch on December 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

Post Offices said the government will provide funding support to expedite interim payments of up to £100,000 for individuals whose convictions have been overturned in ‘Horizon cases’.

The payments will be offered whilst final compensation arrangements are established.

“Ensuring compensation is made as quickly as possible is a priority for Post Office. I welcome the government’s support to enable these interim payments that begin to provide some redress to people who were badly failed,” Nick Read, Post Office chief executive, said.

“Whilst we cannot change the past, this is an important step towards meaningful compensation for victims and we will offer payments as soon as possible.”

The Post Office said it is contacting the representatives of people making claims following the overturning of their convictions, adding that it hopes to provide offers within 28 days of applications for interim payments being received.

A total of 59 convictions have been overturned in appeals till date, 51 at the Court of Appeal, and eight at Southwark Crown Court.

Postal Affairs Minister Paul Scully said: “The suffering and distress these postmasters and their families have gone through cannot be overstated. While nothing will make up for the years of pain they faced after this appalling injustice, I hope this initial step provides a measure of comfort.”

For final compensation, Post Office is proposing alternative dispute resolution arrangements which aim to “facilitate the swift quantification and resolution of compensation claims”. But the firm clarified that interim payments announced today do not prevent victims from bringing civil claims through the courts.

The government’s support comes in addition to the financial backing it is providing for the Historical Shortfall Scheme for current and former sub-postmasters, who were not prosecuted, to claim shortfalls related to previous versions of the scandal-hit computer system Horizon.

Recently, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that Post Office is facing £311 million in claims as part of the scheme.

The document has also revealed that some 2200 claims were made under the scheme, against an anticipated 500, adding that the cost could affect the firm’s ability to operate as a going concern.

Earlier in May, Read has called on the government to compensate victims of the Horizon scandal, saying that the firm “simply does not have the financial resources to provide meaningful compensation.”