Post Office scandal victims secure improved interim compensation

Business

The government has announced it will significantly increase the interim payment given to Post Office workers who have their convictions overturned, from £163,000 to £450,000.

More than 900 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015, after faulty accounting software called Horizon, made by Fujitsu, made it seem like money was missing from their branch accounts.

Some went to prison, others were bankrupt, and lost their livelihoods and their reputations. The Horizon scandal has been called one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history.

So far, 101 people have had their convictions quashed, but earlier this year the government announced it would exonerate all those who were unfairly prosecuted.

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Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, business minister Kevin Hollinrake said that that legislation will be brought forward “as soon as possible, next month.”

He told MPs: “My statement set out that the new legislation will quash all convictions which are identified as being in scope, using clear and objective criteria on the face of the Bill.

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“Convictions will be quashed at the point of commencement without the need for people to apply to have their convictions overturned,” he said.

The interim payment relates to the Overturned Convictions Scheme, one of three schemes running to compensate victims of the Horizon scandal.

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When they submit their claim, the former Post Office workers become eligible for an interim payment – now upped to £450,000.

They can then either accept a settlement of £600,000, or if they feel they are owed more, they can enter negotiations to have their compensation considered on an “individual basis”.

Mr Hollinrake also said that once the Post Office receives a full claim from someone with an overturned conviction, they have committed to provide offers within 40 working days in 90% of cases.

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He added that those who are part of another scheme, the Group Litigation Order Scheme, would receive an offer of £75,000.

However, if they don’t accept that and enter arbitration, the postmasters will get 80% of the initial offer “to make sure they don’t experience hardship while discussions are completed,” Mr Hollinrake said.

The government and the Post Office have been accused of dragging their feet on compensation, something that MPs questioned the business minister about in the chamber.

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“I agree that the compensation has been given too slowly,” said Mr Hollinrake, “and that is something that we are seeking to accelerate every single day and we are doing good work, I think, with the advisory board in terms of trying to make sure that’s the case.

“I don’t think set offers are too low, I’m not saying there aren’t cases where that is not the case, certainly in terms of some of the cases in any compensation scheme will not be 100% perfect.”

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