‘It’s too little too late’: Victims of the Post Office IT scandal criticise the government’s offer of £600,000 in compensation each to settle their claim
- Lawyers for victims have argued the amount will not be enough for the affected
- Ministers have set up the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry, which is still ongoing
Every postmaster wrongfully convicted in the Post Office IT scandal will be offered £600,000 in compensation to settle their claim, the Government has said.
In a victory for the Daily Mail, those who were convicted on the basis of evidence from the faulty Horizon computer system and had their conviction overturned will be offered the money.
Ministers hope the compensation will bring to an end a scandal which has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history.
But lawyers for the victims have argued that the amount will not be enough for the many affected.
The Mail has fought a ten-year battle for justice for blameless postmasters whose lives were ruined by the ordeal.
Many had their spotless reputations blighted by criminal records, while some suffered from depression or even took their own lives.
In 1999, the Post Office rolled out the Horizon accounting IT system, but faults in the software led to shortfalls in branch accounts.
Postmasters were required to ‘make good’ the discrepancies with their own money or face immediate suspension, dismissal or worse.
I lost my home… it’s too little too late
For Della Robinson, the £600,000 compensation offer is ‘too little too late’.
She took over her local post office in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, in 2006 but was convicted of false accounting in 2013 after flaws in the Horizon software showed £17,000 unaccounted for.
Advised to plead guilty to avoid prison, Ms Robinson, 56, was sentenced to 180 hours of community service after losing her job and home. But despite having her conviction quashed more than two years ago, she is yet to receive any compensation.
After learning of the Government’s £600,000 offer yesterday, she said: ‘I’ve lost years of my life because of this. It’s all too little too late.
‘Me and my family have had our lives ruined. We lost our business, we lost our home.
‘The £600,000 is obviously meant to be good news but it’s way too late for all of us.’
The Post Office wrongfully prosecuted more than 700 people between 1999 and 2015 for false accounting or theft.
So far, 86 convictions have been overturned and £21million has been paid in compensation.
Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake told the Commons yesterday: ‘The Government recognises that these postmasters have suffered gravely in relation to the Horizon scandal, and for too long. So should be able to settle their claims swiftly if they wish.’
He said those who have had their convictions on the basis of Horizon evidence overturned will be offered £600,000 to settle. The figure was arrived at by looking at existing claims that have been processed and applying a ‘generous uplift to that’.
All reasonable legal fees will continue to be covered, and any postmaster who does not want to accept this offer can continue with the existing process.
Those 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 added.
Any who overturn their convictions in the future based on Horizon evidence will also be entitled to the payments.
Neil Hudgell works for Hudgell Solicitors, which represents 70 former subpostmasters who are seeking compensation from the Post Office after having convictions relating to the scandal overturned.
He said: ‘In isolation £600,000 may sound like a lot of money, and it is.
‘But in many cases it is nowhere near enough to represent what has been lost over the last two decades.’
Ministers have set up the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry, which is ongoing.
The Post Office said it welcomed the announcement but also admitted the offer is not expected to be appropriate in every case. Chief executive Nick Read added that it ‘is making good progress to pay compensation to those affected as quickly as possible’.