On Wednesday the government introduced the Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill to the House of Commons to ensure that the trailblazers who exposed the scandal do not miss out on compensation because of an arbitrary deadline.
Following recommendations from Sir Wyn Williams, who chairs the Horizon IT Inquiry, ministers have brought forward legislation to allow compensation to be paid under the Group Litigation Order (GLO) scheme past the 7 August 2024 deadline if needed.
“The Post Office Scandal is widely described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in our history, and it is imperative that the victims get the justice and compensation they deserve,” Kevin Hollinrake, minister for postal affairs, said.
“I am determined that lessons are learnt from this scandal to prevent anything like this ever happening again. This bill will ensure postmasters aren’t tied to an arbitrary deadline when making their claims or unnecessarily pressurised.”
The government said it is determined to make compensation claims as soon as possible, and by the current deadline of August 2024. However, it noted that time needs to be taken to assess more complex claims, so postmasters receive full and fair compensation and are not unduly rushed into making a decision on their claims.
The GLO Scheme was launched in March this year and was designed to compensate postmasters who exposed the Post Office Horizon Scandal from the 1990s.
Lord Arbuthnot, member of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, said: “I welcome the principle of the government’s bill lifting the deadline on compensation payments under the Group Litigation Scheme.
“We shall have to look at the precise details, but the bill confirms that the government does intend to provide full and fair compensation to the sub-postmasters and will not be deflected from that by arbitrary timescales.
“Nevertheless, speed of payment is of the essence, and the Advisory Board will do all we can to ensure that payments are made as early as possible.”
The government has in September announced that it will support Post Office to make an upfront offer of £600,000 to postmasters whose Horizon-related conviction has been overturned.
In total, £132 million has been paid to over 2,700 claimants across the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, Overturned Convictions Scheme and Group Litigation Order scheme.