More

    Take urgent action on compensation for litigant sub-postmasters, MPs tell government

    A Commons committee has asked the government to “urgently commit” to ensuring that the 555 group action litigants, who took Post Office to court exposing the Horizon IT scandal, be “fully compensated” for all their losses on the same basis as other victims of this scandal receiving compensation.

    The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, which on Thursday published a report of its inquiry into the topic, also noted its deep concern that, despite the efforts to contact sub-postmasters who were subject to ‘unsafe’ Horizon convictions, so few have approached Post Office to begin the process of overturning them.

    The report recommended the government to set up an independent body as a trusted first point of contact for those wrongly convicted because of Horizon, in particular for the 576 convicted sub-postmasters who have not yet come forward.

    The committee’s report makes a series of recommendations in relation to the three different routes that sub-postmasters can follow to claim Horizon compensation, from the 555 Group Action litigants, from unsafe convictions, and from the Historic Shortfall Scheme.

    “It is clearly entirely unacceptable that the group of 555 victims who first brought this scandal successfully to court are being left in a worse position than those who are being compensated thanks to their action. There is no valid reason to exclude the 555 from being fully compensated and the Chancellor must come forward with the required funding now,” Darren Jones, chair of the committee, said.

    Since Post Office and the litigants have agreed to £57 million settlement, these sub-postmasters are excluded from the compensation scheme. But, Alan Bates, lead claimant in the group litigation, has revealed that £46m of that went towards the costs associated with bringing the legal action. Bates later launched a Parliamentary Ombudsman complaint against the government, seeking to claim back this fees.

    “The Post Office-Horizon scandal is one of the largest miscarriages of justice in British history, subjecting sub-postmasters, postal workers and their families to the most appalling hardship. The government and the Post Office must speed up their efforts to deliver full, fair and final compensation for every single victim – justice will not be done unless they do so,” Jones added.

    The report also expresses concerns about the time taken to make settlements to sub-postmasters who have had their convictions overturned and criticises the slowness of payments made under the Historical Shortfall Scheme.

    It makes a series of criticisms regarding the latter scheme, including a lack of support for, and engagement with, sub-postmasters, questions concerning the independence of the scheme, and fears compensation claims are too low and risk leaving Horizon victims without fair compensation.

    “We have published this interim report on compensation because of the urgency to get this right now. However, when Sir Wyn Williams concludes his statutory inquiry, we will return to our full Parliamentary inquiry regarding corporate governance issues at the Post Office and oversight of Post Office decisions by the Business Department and UK Government Investments,” Jones said.

    The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, which probes the Post Office’s role in a flawed IT system Horizon, has started its Human Impact Hearings this week.

    The BEIS Committee’s report examines the costs of settling the Horizon scandal, with costs including those concerning the settlement to the 555 group, monies set aside for the Historic Shortfall Scheme and for interim payments for those who have overturned their unsafe convictions.

    The report notes that in December 2021 BEIS had identified a new £685.6m direct grant to Post Office for the Post Office Historical Matters subsidy scheme and calls on the government to explain whether this direct grant is to cover the whole estimated cost of the Horizon scandal and whether this includes money assigned for achieving a fair settlement with the 555.

    The report asks the government to provide regular updates when compensation is refused for sub-postmasters who have had their convictions overturned, the reasons for this and if subsequent compensation is sought and awarded. The report also recommends the government to provide monthly updates on the number of interim payments made, the number of final payments made, and the range of amounts paid out to reach full, fair and final settlements.

    The report examines the structure and establishment of the Historic Shortfall Scheme, the dispute resolution process, and concerns of similarities between the HBOS Reading scheme and of the role of Herbert Smith Freehills.

    It stresses the need for support for sub-postmasters who are making claims through the scheme, because so much of the necessary paperwork and records to establish claims were not stored by the Horizon IT system or retained by POL. Similarly, the committee is concerned that sub-postmasters have access to independent advice when assessing whether compensation offers fully cover their losses.

    Latest

    Number of Brits mainly using cash jumps unexpectedly

    There has been a spike in the number of...

    Valeo Foods acquires Canadian maple syrup business Appalaches Nature

    Valeo Foods Group, one of Europe’s leading producers of...

    New Four Loko Pink Melon – for a taste of summer

    Vodka-based RTD brand Four Loko has unveiled its latest...

    Ice-cream prices soar up by more than 30 per cent: Which?

    Price of popular ice-creams and lollies have soared by...

    Don't miss

    Number of Brits mainly using cash jumps unexpectedly

    There has been a spike in the number of...

    Valeo Foods acquires Canadian maple syrup business Appalaches Nature

    Valeo Foods Group, one of Europe’s leading producers of...

    New Four Loko Pink Melon – for a taste of summer

    Vodka-based RTD brand Four Loko has unveiled its latest...

    Ice-cream prices soar up by more than 30 per cent: Which?

    Price of popular ice-creams and lollies have soared by...

    Local stores raise alarm as shop theft figures touch record high levels

    Shoplifting offences have increased to a new 20 year...

    Number of Brits mainly using cash jumps unexpectedly

    There has been a spike in the number of people who mainly use cash for their daily spending, a new report has found. The banking...

    Valeo Foods acquires Canadian maple syrup business Appalaches Nature

    Valeo Foods Group, one of Europe’s leading producers of sweets, treats and snacks, has completed the acquisition of Appalaches Nature, a Canadian maple syrup...

    Ice-cream prices soar up by more than 30 per cent: Which?

    Price of popular ice-creams and lollies have soared by more than 30 per cent over the past two years, states a recent report, highlighting...