Post Office: Horizon scandal victims offered £600,000 compensation

6 days ago 34

A stock image of a Post Office signImage source, Getty Images

By Noor Nanji & Emma Simpson

BBC News

Post Office workers who have had wrongful convictions for theft and false accounting overturned are to be offered £600,000 each in compensation, the government has said.

More than 700 branch managers were given criminal convictions when faulty accounting software made it look like money was missing from their sites.

So far, 86 convictions have been overturned.

The Post Office minister said the sum was being offered "no ifs or buts".

The compensation is for postmasters whose convictions relied on the now discredited Horizon IT system, in return for them settling their claims.

Postmasters who have already received initial compensation payments, or have reached a settlement with the Post Office of less than £600,000, will be paid the difference.

The government said the offer aimed to "bring a resolution to the scandal".

Postmasters will continue to receive funds to cover legal fees. Anyone who does not want to accept the offer can continue with the existing process.

Noel Thomas, 76, from Anglesey was sent to prison for false accounting in 2006 but eventually had his conviction quashed. He said that for many of those affected, the £600,000 will not repay what they have lost from the Horizon scandal.

Image caption,

Noel Thomas, pictured with his wife Eira, was wrongly jailed for nine months in 2006, in the UK's most widespread miscarriage of justice

"How do you put a price on what I've been through, what my family have been through?" he told the BBC.

"People have gone through a hell of a lot. Don't forget, some have lost properties in all this business."

Others are still waiting to have their convictions overturned. Those who successfully do so in future, based on Horizon evidence, will also be entitled to the compensation.

'Not tempted'

Harjinder Butoy also said the offer of £600,000 "is definitely not enough".

He co-ran a post office in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, and was given a three-year, three-month sentence after his conviction in 2007. He served 18 months in prison before he was released, and still awaits compensation.

Image caption,

Harjinder Butoy was one of 39 former postmasters who had their convictions quashed in April 2021

He said he won't be tempted by the new offer of "quick and easy" money.

"At the moment, the compensation process is slow but it's honest compensation according to what we're asking for. Yes, if it takes another year, it takes another year.

"They [the Post Office and government] know that the compensation is going to be a lot more than £600,000 - and are just trying to do it 'quick and easy'.

"I wouldn't mind having this all behind me - but I'm not going to let them get away with it so easy, because I know [what I'm owed] is a lot more".

He said no amount of compensation would "give him his dream back".

Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office Minister appointed last autumn, told the BBC: "If you've suffered a conviction, and you've had that conviction overturned, £600,000 is there waiting for you.

"We're doing this because people have suffered horrendous situations of course, financial loss as well as personal damage to reputation, and many other things have happened to people. So we want to get this compensation out the door."

He said the government had "erred on the side of generosity", but admitted that for some people it would not be enough.

"If you've suffered, if you've spent time in jail, if you lost your house, if your marriage has failed, all those things - if those things have happened to you, no amount of money will ever be enough," he said.

He added: "If you think your claim is worth more than £600,000, you can still go through the normal routes."

Some £21m has been paid in compensation so far to postmasters with overturned convictions.

It is one of three different compensation schemes that have been set up as the scandal developed.

The Post Office Horizon scandal has been described as "the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history".

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office prosecuted 700 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses - an average of almost one a week - based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon.

Some went to prison following convictions for false accounting and theft. Many were financially ruined and have described being shunned by their communities. Some have since died.

The Horizon inquiry is investigating the scandal and is likely to conclude in 2024.

Last month, Nick Read, the boss of the Post Office, agreed to return all of his bonus payment for his participation in the inquiry - a total amount of £54,400.

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