The UK’s Court of Appeal has overturned the judgements of 59 sub-postmasters who were convicted or sacked as a result of what later turned out to be reporting errors by Fujitsu’s Horizon IT system, which was used by the Post Office between 1999 and 2015.
These appeals were unopposed by the UK Post Office.
As the Post Office is a limited company owned entirely by the UK Government, the government has confirmed it will foot the bill for a £100,000 interim compensation payment for each sub-postmaster to acknowledge the “distressing impact the problems with the Post Office’s Horizon IT system have had on [their] lives and livelihoods.”
In a written letter to Parliament, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng explained that this is “ahead of final compensation settlements being agreed with them”.
He also noted that his department would be launching a Horizon IT inquiry following these judgements by the Court of Appeal.
Between 1999 and 2015, the Horizon system flagged that money had vanished from Post Office accounts, but this was later found to be false as the system had significant flaws and bugs that caused it to misreport.
The missing money was blamed on a total of 736 sub-postmasters who an Post Offices across the UK and the Horizon IT system’s data was used as the main evidence in their convictions and sackings for theft, fraud and false accounting.
Therefore, these computing errors and robo-convictions are believed to have caused one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in the UK’s history.
According to reporting by the Guardian, the Criminal Cases review Commission is reviewing further cases and others have filed their own appeals with the Court of Appeal.
The impact of this scandal on the lives of the sub-postmasters was enormous according to their lawyers.
Some of them were jailed, while others lost their jobs and homes.
Many subsequently went bankrupt because they were forced to pay back large sums of money they were alleged to have taken and others were vilified by their local communities.
“That makes it all the more important for it to be recognized by the Post Office and the courts.”
However, in talking about the compensation, Hudgell added: “This cannot be a delaying gesture though. This is money to which these clients are entitled.
“With regards to how final settlements are agreed, we want them to come to the table and be meaningful in what they put forward.”
Post Office chief executive Nick Read wrote in a statement: “Ensuring compensation is made as quickly as possible is a priority for Post Office.
“I welcome the government’s support to enable these interim payments that begin to provide some redress to people who were badly failed.
“Whilst we cannot change the past, this is an important step towards meaningful compensation for victims and we will offer payments as soon as possible.”
Postal Affairs minister Paul Scully told the Guardian: “The suffering and distress these postmasters and their families have gone through cannot be overstated.
“While nothing will make up for the years of pain they faced after this appalling injustice, I hope this initial step provides a measure of comfort.
“The Post Office has started to turn a corner in terms of dealing with its past mistakes – and this government will support them in doing so wherever possible.”
The Post Office is suggesting that the final compensation package be based on Alternative Dispute Resolution arrangements in order to “facilitate the swift quantification and resolution of compensation claims.”