I reproduce below a letter from the Minister about compensation for those caught up in the Horizon software problems. I have been pressing for a long time for proper compensation.
Post Office Horizon Compensation
I know that colleagues will welcome an update on compensation for postmasters who were
wrongfully convicted on the basis of Horizon evidence and have seen or will see their
Members across the House are well aware of the longstanding Horizon IT system issues.
Starting in the late 1990s, the Post Office began installing Horizon accounting software,
but faults in the software led to shortfalls in branch accounts. The Post Office demanded
postmasters cover the shortfalls, and in many cases wrongfully prosecuted them between
1999 and 2015 for false accounting or theft. We now know that Horizon data was
unreliable. Government has provided funding to Post Office to make upfront interim
payments of £163,000 to eligible postmasters who have their convictions overturned as
well as funding for full and final settlements.
The Government and the Post Office have been clear that we want to see the victims receive
swift and fair compensation. I have been monitoring the delivery of compensation to those
with overturned convictions, where £21 million has been paid to date. While good progress
has been made in upfront interim payments and non-pecuniary (personal) damages,
progress on pecuniary (financial) damages has been slower. I announced in the House
yesterday that the Government has decided that postmasters who have their convictions on
the basis of Horizon evidence overturned should have the opportunity upfront to accept an
offer of £600,000 in full and final settlement of their claim. To be clear, this upfront offer is
available to those postmasters whose convictions were overturned as they were reliant on
Horizon evidence at the time. This payment will be made net of any sums already received,
such as interim payments and partial settlements, to settle the claim fully. Any postmaster
who had their conviction overturned as it was reliant on Horizon evidence and has already
reached a settlement with the Post Office for less than £600,000 will be paid the difference.
Post Office is contacting the legal representatives of eligible postmasters to inform them of
this offer. I appreciate some details will need to be worked through, such as how long the
upfront offer remains open for. I am committed to consulting the Horizon Advisory Board
on this matter to make sure we get this right but did not want to delay informing
postmasters that there will be an optional quick and straightforward route to settlement.
Those postmasters who have been wrongfully convicted have suffered severe impact on
their lives, as well as significant financial losses. It is right that Government recognises
that postmasters have suffered gravely in relation to the Horizon scandal, and for too long
and should be able to settle their claim swiftly, if they wish. Any postmaster who does not
want to accept this offer can of course continue with the existing process. It will therefore
be completely optional to accept the offer of £600,000 and Government will continue to
fund the legal costs of these postmasters to ensure they receive independent advice
ahead of making a decision. But we hope that the change that I announced yesterday will
provide more reassurance and quicker compensation to those postmasters who would
prefer this option.
Some postmasters may not wish to accept this offer upfront, in which case it remains open
to that individual to settle their claim via individual assessment with the Post Office.
Government and Post Office are committed to handling these claims as quickly as possible.
Post Office has been engaging with legal representatives on the principles and process for
assessing pecuniary claims to move to a remediation model of claim assessment involving
an independent assessor. This approach will bring greater transparency to the existing
process and aims to support swifter formulation and settlement of claims.
We know that there were hundreds of postmasters convicted during the period Horizon
was in use. Post Office has contacted over 600 postmasters to help them to appeal their
conviction and this work was later taken over by the Criminal Cases Review Commission
as an independent party. However, only 86 convictions have been overturned to date, we
recognise there are a number of postmasters who have not yet sought to appeal their
conviction. It is for the Courts to decide whether a conviction is unsafe but we encourage
all postmasters who think their conviction may be unsafe to come forward and start the
process. We hope that being transparent about the level of compensation available via a
straightforward route will make the appeal worthwhile.
I am committed to keeping Colleagues updated on progress made in delivering Post Office
compensation. With regard to compensation for those with overturned convictions, £21
million has been paid to date. The Post Office has made offers to all 73 formerly convicted
postmasters who have submitted a claim for non-pecuniary damages, which are nonfinancial personal losses. Awards for non-pecuniary damages are guided by Lord Dyson’s
Early Neutral Evaluation. With regard to pecuniary damages, which are financial losses,
only 21 claims have been submitted to date and Post Office has made offers to 12 of
these, 5 of which have been accepted. To date, £79 million has been paid under the
Horizon Shortfall Scheme, with offers made to 99% of the original cohort of applicants.
Post Office has made offers to 58% of eligible late claims. Then, under the Group Litigation
Order Scheme, the Department has paid £22 million to date. The Department announced
interim payments in June last year and 99% of claimants have received the share of the
£19.5 million they are entitled to. The scheme opened for full applications in March this
year – to date, 32 claims have been submitted and first settlements have been reached. I
am pleased to inform you that my Department will be publishing data online regularly on
the progress of compensation delivery online.
I am committed to seeing these longstanding Horizon issues resolved, learning what went
wrong through the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, and ensuring something like this can
never happen again.
KEVIN HOLLINRAKE MP
Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Busines