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    Remove Post Office from Horizon payout scheme, say MPs

    Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

    Trust in Post Office management has fallen at the lowest as MPs and subpostmasters are demanding to remove it from the process of compensating the victims of Horizon scandal.

    A report by the Business and Trade Committee has recommended that the government should “immediately” remove the Post Office from “any involvement in delivering redress”.

    “The Post Office is not fit for purpose to administer any of the schemes of redress required to make amends for one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history,” states the report.

    The report also described the Post Office’s leadership as being in “utter disarray”, noting its chief executive Nick Read is under investigation and stating that he had “supplied misleading evidence to the Committee” on the Post Office’s use of both non-disclosure agreements and public relations firms.

    MPs in the Business and Trade Committee have called for the Post Office to be excluded from involvement in giving financial redress to victims of the scandal it caused and want legally binding deadlines on when final payments should be made.

    Commenting on a report published today (7), Post Office has welcomed the direction of this report into speeding redress for one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

    “While £179m has been delivered in redress to victims of this scandal, and settlements reached with 2700 postmasters, more needs to be done. Post Office would have no objection to relinquishing our role in administering redress. Whatever is decided, we will continue to work with government, Parliament and the independent Advisory Board to do everything possible to speed up justice and redress for victims of this terrible scandal,” stated a Post Office spokesperson.

    The Committee also heard that the Post Office still suffers from a “toxic culture” and a “complete lack of trust between the company and sub-postmasters”.

    Campaigner and former subpostmaster Alan Bates said, “It’s clear that members of the committee know what’s been going on and the recommendations make a lot of sense, but whether the government takes them on board is another matter.

    “But they really need to act on them, and very, very quickly,” he added. 

    More than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongfully prosecuted after they were blamed for non-existent shortfalls produced by faulty Fujitsu software.

    The Post Office runs two financial redress schemes – the Horizon Shortfall Scheme – often used by sub-postmasters who used the money to make up for fictional losses, and the Overturned Convictions process, which deals with victims who were wrongfully convicted.

    MPs noted the organisation also plays a “key role” in the Group Litigation Order scheme because it has to disclose evidence to sub-postmasters that they are required to submit a claim.

    Concluding with recommendations, the report stated that The Post Office had “ruined the lives of innocent sub-postmasters” and had “subsequently failed to facilitate redress.”

    “The Government must immediately remove the Post Office from any involvement in delivering redress for sub-postmasters and the Government should set out to the Committee how it proposes to deliver swift and effective redress for sub-postmasters, and in what legally binding timeframes,” states the report.

    The Committee also recommends a suggestion proposed by Bates himself – that hard deadlines be set for payments being issued.

    A Government spokesperson said,  “The Government is working tirelessly to get compensation into the hands of those postmasters and postmistresses wronged by the injustices of this scandal.

    “We’re speeding up compensation, with approximately £179 million already paid, and legislation is being brought forward to overturn the convictions of those who were wrongly prosecuted, with £600,000 in compensation also available.

    “We will consider this report, and its recommendations, carefully and respond in due course.”

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