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    Horizon: New compensation scheme launched for the 555 litigant-postmasters

    (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    Chancellor Rishi Sunak today announced a new funding scheme to ensure the postmasters who were the first to take legal action against the Post Office over the failings of its Horizon IT computer system will be compensated fully and fairly.

    The group of 555 postmasters, who won the case at High Court, only received a fraction of the £57 million settlement due to a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement with their litigation funding company, with each postmaster receiving around £20,000 each. Alan Bates, lead claimant in the group litigation, has earlier revealed that £46m went towards the costs associated with bringing the legal action.

    The 2019 ruling, however, paved the way for millions of pounds worth of future pay-outs and led to the Court of Appeal quashing the convictions of postmasters who were wrongly accused of committing crimes.

    Since Post Office and the litigants have agreed to the settlement, these sub-postmasters are excluded from the Historical Shortfall Scheme (HSS) which was set up to by the Post Office following the scandal to compensate postmasters who had to personally cover shortfalls in their branch’s accounts caused by the Horizon IT.

    “Whilst it cannot take away the years of distress, the postmasters who have suffered terribly over the Post Office Horizon scandal deserve to be fairly compensated,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “That’s why we’ll be introducing a new compensation scheme for those who led and won the landmark legal case over the failings, so they can receive their fair share.”

    Rishi Sunak added: “The Horizon IT dispute has had a devastating impact on postmasters and their families, with many losing their livelihoods or being wrongly convicted for crimes they didn’t commit.

    “Without the efforts of these postmasters, this terrible injustice may have never been uncovered so it is only right that they are compensated fully and fairly. That is why we have set up this new compensation scheme for those who played a crucial role bringing this scandal to light, which I hope provides a measure of comfort.”

    Last month, a Commons committee has asked the government to “urgently commit” to ensuring that the 555 group action litigants be “fully compensated” for all their losses on the same basis as other victims of this scandal receiving compensation.

    The scheme comes after the government announced a separate scheme last year to provide funding for full and final settlements for eligible postmasters who have had their Horizon-related conviction overturned, with those eligible to receive an interim payment of up to £100,000 each.

    The Treasury said more details of the new scheme, including how postmasters can submit compensation claims, will be set out by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in due course.

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