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    Horizon scandal: New compensation scheme for litigant postmasters now open

    (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

    A new scheme to compensate the postmasters who exposed the Post Office Horizon Scandal from the 1990s is now open.

    These 555 postmasters, who settled with Post Office, just before High Court ruling in their favour in 2019, were excluded from the compensation schemes subsequently launched for postmasters who were prosecuted on the basis of Horizon data.

    They 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.

    The scheme opening today recognises the unique position of these postmasters and will make sure they will have access to compensation on the same basis as other postmasters who were so badly wronged by the actions of Post Office and the Horizon system, the Department for Business and Trade said.

    “The trailblazing postmasters who exposed the Horizon scandal were instrumental in securing justice for all of those affected,” Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake commented.

    “We will keep fighting for the postmasters and their families, and it is right that they will now receive full and fair compensation for the pain and suffering caused by this scandal.”

    Starting in the late 1990s, the Post Office began installing Horizon accounting software, but faults in the software led to shortfalls in branches’ accounts. The Post Office demanded sub-postmasters cover the shortfalls, and in many cases wrongfully prosecuted them between 1999 and 2015 for false accounting or theft.

    In June last year, the government has confirmed an interim compensation package of £19.5 million for the postmasters in the Group Litigation Order (GLO) group, after announcing in March a new funding scheme to compensate them fully and fairly.

    Last December, the government announced an Independent Advisory Board to guide ministers on the scheme chaired by Professor Chris Hodges. Members of the advisory board include Lord Arbuthnot, Kevan Jones MP and Professor Richard Moorhead.

    Professor Hodges said: “The advisory board welcomes the creation of this GLO compensation scheme. Whilst compensation cannot truly deal with the injustices faced by the victims of the post office scandal, we do believe it can help. Critical to that is a process independent of the post office, fair in its handling of the issues and evidence, and as speedy as possible.”

    Today’s announcement comes following significant progress on compensation for other postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal.

    On the Overturned Historical Convictions Compensation, as of Tuesday 7 March, Post Office has paid out over £17.5 million in compensation to those with overturned historical convictions. 79 of the 84 postmasters and former postmasters with overturned historical convictions had received interim payments, totalling over £10.2 million.

    On the Historical Shortfall Scheme, as of Friday 3 March, 96 per cent of eligible claimants to the Historical Shortfall Scheme have now received offers of compensation, totalling £82.9 million.

    The affected postmasters will be able to apply directly to the Department for Business and Trade for compensation and cases will be settled in line with an alternative dispute resolution model without the need to go to court.

    The postmasters in this group whose convictions have been overturned will receive compensation through a separate programme delivered by Post Office.

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