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March 17th 2020

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All Subpostmasters affected by Post Office Horizon accounting scandal must be fully compensated

Dr Neil Hudgell

Dr Neil Hudgell

Managing Director

All Subpostmasters affected by Post Office Horizon accounting scandal must be fully compensated

In our work supporting people in fighting for justice we have seen few cases as damaging to lives as the Post Office Horizon accounting computer scandal.

In our work supporting people in fighting for justice we have seen few cases as damaging to lives as the Post Office Horizon accounting computer scandal.

Due to a faulty IT system which was installed in thousands of branches 20 years ago, hundreds – maybe thousands – of honest and law-abiding people working for the Post Office found themselves wrongly accused of crimes including false accounting, fraud and theft.

Some of the stories from the Subpostmasters affected are truly horrifying.

People suffered mental health breakdowns as they were forced to try and explain accounting shortfalls. Some were eventually advised to plead guilty in court to crimes they hadn’t committed, as they were unable to explain why thousands of pounds had apparently gone missing.

These people lost not only significant sums of money, but also their businesses, livelihoods and for some their liberty as they were jailed for crimes they had not committed.

Last year, some form of justice was finally secured when the Post Office agreed to pay a £58million settlement to a group of 550 Subpostmasters following a High Court case. But for many, as yet, there has been no legal redress.

That is why we are working with MP Karl Turner, who has raised the matter in Parliament, to campaign on their behalf and seek justice.

The High Court judgment highlighted ‘a culture of secrecy and excessive confidentiality generally in the Post Office, but particularly around Horizon.’

It said that ‘behind the scenes there were at least a number of people within the Post Office who realised that there were difficulties with the Horizon system’ and that it engaged in “oppressive behaviour” when demanding sums of money that could not be accounted for by the Subpostmasters affected.

In conclusion, the judgement said it had been proved, ‘beyond any shadow of doubt’ that Post Office had been allowed by successive governments to ‘wrongly inflict numerous injustices on Subpostmasters whilst governments ignored cries for help.’

In essence, law-abiding people were frightened into taking responsibility for financial shortfalls which had been no fault of their own, as they had been using a system which had clearly been failing from the start.

Many still to be compensated despite £58million group damages settlement

We believe that the group damages settlement agreed late last year only scratches the surface in terms of those affected.

The Horizon accounting system was introduced in 1999 and some 63,000 Post Office employees were trained to operate it, the youngest being 17 and the oldest 87, across some 18,000 post office branches.

It now appears that the Post Office is aware that this matter is far from over also, despite the group settlement announced last year, with reports surfacing that it is beginning to compensate people in individual claims.

It has established a Complex Cases Review Team (CCRT) to consider claims made by individual Subpostmasters, with reports of compensation payouts of £300,000 already having been agreed.

Others who have made claims are also now said to be receiving letters stating their cases are being considered.

The Post Office is yet to disclose the exact terms of how a new scheme will work, and when it will officially be open, but a spokesman has confirmed that it will have the ‘aim of addressing historic shortfalls for current and former postmasters who were not part of the Group Litigation’.

This could present an opportunity for more people affected to secure the compensation they truly deserve.

At Hudgell Solicitors we are speaking to a number of former Subpostmasters who suffered as a result of this, and will continue working with Mr Turner to look at the best ways of seeking the compensation they deserve.

If you were affected, call our team today for free legal advice on this matter.

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