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Government urged to release £600,000 compensation offered to former sub-postmasters after ‘breaching privacy’

hudgell solicitors successfully represented former subpostmasters at the court of appeal in their legal action against the post office

Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

7 min read time
27 Sep 2023

The Post Office Horizon Scandal Podcast Series

Hudgell Solicitors’ Post Office Horizon Scandal Podcast series, with Neil Hudgell, is available to listen to now on Spotify.

Hudgell Solicitors are the legal firm at the forefront of the continuing fight for justice for former Sub-postmasters who were victims of what is now recognised to have been the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history.

The lawyer representing 70 former sub-postmasters who have had convictions relating to the Post Office Horizon scandal overturned is encouraging the Government to release funds now from the £600,000 compensation it has offered each of them.

Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, says those he represents were left feeling their ‘privacy had been fundamentally breached’ when Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake unexpectedly announced the figure in the House of Commons last week.

He says there had been no prior discussions between the parties about plans to make any offered compensation figures public knowledge.

Now he says there is a danger of some former sub-postmasters feeling ‘pressurised’ into accepting the offer now, rather than continuing to pursue legal claims for greater settlements, if payments are not made available.

“The offer came very much out of left field and I think we were all rather blind sided by it. There had been no indication that anything was going to be said by the Government,” explained Mr Hudgell in a series of Podcasts covering all aspects of the scandal.

“There has been a troubled response from our clients. I think the first and most concerning response is a collective feeling that their privacy has been breached here. There has been plenty of dialogue and public comment about compensation, but what there hasn’t been has been any real conversation about specifics.

“Many of these people are heavily traumatised and private people that like to keep their business to themselves, and that opportunity has been taken away from them. They are now worried and frightened as they live in communities where people know they are entitled to a minimum payment of £600,000.

“This is something I’ve been asked to express back to Post Office and to request a meeting with the Minister about. The ‘horse has bolted’ in some senses and we can’t undo what’s already out there following what was obviously a very public comment about these figures, but it’s a case of old wounds being reopened because Post Office are continuing to control the narrative as to what’s happening.

“The Post Office say it is public money and so they have to make some announcement, but I don’t think they needed to make an announcement which went into the very specifics of things. The damage is done now.

“What we don’t want, and I am sure what the Government didn’t want to create, is an added tension and pressure on people to accept this sum of money, rather than carrying on through the process. It has taken two-and-a-half-years to reach this point, and the process with regards compensation claims for those who have had convictions overturned is open ended.

“I can see a situation where clients are left thinking that their claim is worth more than £600,000, but because, for example, they are getting on and want to retire and have some comfort in life, this could create a tension for them to make decisions that are not necessarily in their best interests, just to get things over and done.

“We are in an active dialogue at the minute to release this money, because it is obviously there and available, on an interim basis to those people that clearly have sizable claims and don’t need the added stress and strain of this hanging over them, creating a decision that they have to make.”

Focus remains on securing ‘full and fair compensation settlements

Whilst Mr Hudgell admits ‘some will benefit’ from the offer of £600,000, he insists the priority remains securing settlements which are ‘fair and reasonable’ for people who were wrongfully convicted of crimes they had not committed, with many being declared bankrupt as a result, losing their homes and reputations. Some were sent to prison also.

“There is a lot to consider as to whether an offer of £600,000 is fair and reasonable as much depends on the particular circumstances of the sub-postmaster in question,” he said.

“I think members of the public would say £600,000 is a very significant sum of money, and it is, but of course it is only a significant sum of money to somebody who has lost so much if it adequately compensates them for that loss.

“There is such a wide and varying range of damage that has been inflicted that one size doesn’t fit all.

“£600,000 to somebody who was nearing retirement and had a limited loss of earnings claim is very much nearer the mark than for somebody who was in their 20s that was convicted, stigmatised, went to prison and was left heavily traumatised and has not worked since.

“The answer to the question therefore is we don’t really know if it is adequate until we apply some science to the specifics of each and every case.

“I’ve said many times people cannot be truly compensated for what they have lost but there are established principles of law which apply to help us analyse each case and apply those principles for the losses we can establish.

“That is now an exercise for the legal team to conduct in context of the offer which has been put forward to advise a client whether it is enough, or not enough. There is a broad range of clear cut cases at each end of the spectrum and some cases which sit in a middle grey area.

“We’ve looked after these clients for a long time so we’ve got a good idea of the value of their claims to a large extent. In some instances we are still awaiting disclosure, in some instances we are still trying to find missing information, so there are still some aspects of claims where there are elements of uncertainty, but in the main part we have been able to firm up large parts of the claims to give us some informed understanding of how we can advise each client and we are going through that exercise at the minute and offering advice on an individual basis.

“We’re not going to be rushed. We want to make sure we get the advice right and that we consider the claims in their entirety. There are very certainly some people that it will benefit, there are some it won’t benefit. A good deal of our focus in on that middle category of people who it may or may not benefit, and they may take a view that a number now is better than something that’s indeterminate in the future.

“Some clients are very keen to settle. Some it makes no difference to them and they want to wait until the end of the inquiry until they even contemplate compensation. It’s what the client wants first. We are there to advise them, but ultimately it’s up to them to make their decisions.”

Read more: Post Office Horizon Legal Representation

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Government urged to release £600,000 compensation offered to former sub-postmasters after ‘breaching privacy’

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