July 14, 2024

The Post Office is to be removed from delivering compensation for victims of the faulty Horizon software, a minister has said.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday afternoon, Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake accepted a recommendation that responsibility for redress should not lie with the organisation.

Instead, the Department for Business and Trade and independent individuals will be tasked with the administration, he said.

The faulty Horizon system led to hundreds being wrongfully convicted for fraud, theft and wrongful accounting.

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Mr Hollinrake said: “I can announce today that it will be the Department for Business and Trade rather than the Post Office which will be responsible for delivery of this redress related to the overturning of these convictions.

“Final decisions on redress will be made by independent panels or independent individuals.”

More on Post Office Scandal

A total of 102 falsely charged sub-postmasters have had their convictions overturned, but the vast majority of the 700 convicted have not.

Legislation that will overturn hundreds of convictions has been announced – Mr Hollinrake has accepted that some genuine convictions will be quashed in the process.

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‘Compensation paid by summer’

After explosive hearings with Post Office officials and victims the Business and Trade Committee had issued a series of recommendations, one of which was that the Post Office should have nothing to do with administering redress schemes.

Another recommendation – that there be legally binding time frames in which to deliver redress – was on Wednesday rejected by Mr Hollinrake.

To implement financial penalties for action within certain time periods would slow down the process of compensation, Mr Hollinrake said, rather than speed it up.

“We feel their proposed regime would have the opposite impact, it would mean potentially imposing penalties on forensic accountants or others who are helping postmasters to prepare their claims,” he said.

“Doing that would probably cause some of them to withdraw from this work which would slow down the delivery of redress.

“Further more we do not want to be in a position where we are rushing postmasters into major decisions about their claims and the offers they receive, possibly meaning some are timed out of redress altogether,” he added.

Sub-postmasters had their reputations ruined by allegations of theft and false accounting, with many left bankrupt or in prison, as a result of Horizon.

The Horizon Shortfall Scheme (HSS) and Group Litigation Order (GLO), the two other compensation schemes, are unaffected by Wednesday’s announcement.

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