Government’s Own Slow Progress in Compensating Post Office Scandal Victims Revealed

Government figures reveal that only 11 out of over 500 members of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) campaign group have received full compensation, four years after their landmark High Court victory. The Post Office computer system was found to be responsible for unexplained accounting shortfalls that the subpostmasters were wrongly blamed and punished for. This injustice resulted in wrongful convictions, imprisonment, and bankruptcy for many subpostmasters. Another 10 members have now reached final settlements with the government. The JFSA has its own compensation scheme after the government initially refused to provide additional damages beyond the amount awarded in the High Court group litigation order (GLO) victory. However, the JFSA had to share a significantly reduced sum of £11m out of the awarded £58m due to legal costs. The government has made interim and final payments totaling £27m to the GLO group. Alan Bates, the founder of the JFSA, criticized the government for the slow progress and missing its own deadlines, stating that compensation claims were taking too long. The government initially excluded the GLO claimants from the Post Office compensation scheme established after the court victory, but a separate compensation scheme was eventually announced in March 2022. Its objective is to restore the victims to the financial position they would have been in if the scandal had not occurred. The Post Office’s Horizon retail and accounting system, introduced in 2000, led to subpostmasters being blamed for accounting discrepancies caused by software errors. Despite promises from the government to expedite compensation, progress has been slow, with only a small number of JFSA members receiving full compensation thus far. The government has introduced the Post Office Compensation Bill to ensure compensation can still be paid after the deadline of the GLO compensation scheme on August 7, 2024. Separate compensation schemes exist for subpostmasters wrongly convicted of crimes and the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, which was established as part of the settlement between the Post Office and the JFSA in the GLO. The government stated that a total of £138m has been paid to over 2,700 claimants across all three schemes. Minister for postal affairs, Kevin Hollinrake, emphasized the importance of justice, compensation, truth, and accountability for the affected postmasters.

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