• Sunday, April 21, 2024

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Government assures higher payouts for victims of Post Office scandal

The measures reflect the government’s commitment to rectify injustices suffered by wrongly convicted staff, says minister

By: Eastern Eye

THE government has announced significant enhancements to the interim payment scheme that provides compensation to victims of the Post Office scandal.

These measures aim to address the injustices faced by sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses who were wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 due to a faulty accounting software known as Horizon, developed by Japanese manufacturers Fujitsu.

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake made the announcement in the Commons, confirming that interim compensation payments for victims with overturned convictions would increase substantially, from £163,000 to £450,000.

He added the increased financial support reflected the government’s commitment to rectify the “profound” impacts of the scandal, which resulted in false accounting accusations, imprisonment, bankruptcy, and loss of livelihood for many victims.

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted in one of the most significant miscarriages of justice in British history, following the flawed Horizon system inaccurately flagging money discrepancies.

Hollinrake further said legislation was due to be introduced in March to automatically overturn all wrongful convictions, sparing individuals the burden of applying for redress.

He assured MPs that convictions would be quashed upon the legislation’s commencement, providing swift relief to affected individuals.

The increased interim payments form part of the Overturned Convictions Scheme, one of three compensation schemes established for Post Office victims. Upon submission of their claims, former Post Office workers become eligible for the enhanced interim payment of £450,000.

Hollinrake emphasised that negotiations for final settlements would be expedited, allowing victims to seek further compensation if they believe they are entitled to more than the standard settlement of £600,000.

The minister said the government pledged to deliver settlement offers within 40 working days for 90 per cent of fully processed claims.

He also emphasised the thorough examination of another scheme, namely the Horizon Shortfall Scheme.

Advocacy groups and victims welcomed the measures.

Chris Hodges, chair of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, expressed optimism that the enhanced compensation scheme would lead to swifter payments.

The three primary schemes, tailored to different groups of victims who faced varying aspects of the scandal, encompass the Overturned Convictions Scheme, the Group Litigation Order Scheme, and the Horizon Shortfall Scheme.

As of February 1, around £160 million has been paid to over 2,700 claimants across the three schemes.

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