Post Office inquiry clears up opaque stance on subpostmaster compensation

The chair of the statutory public inquiry into the Horizon scandal has made it clear that he will investigate whether the 555 former subfields that brought the post office to court will get fair compensation.

This follows the president of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) withdrawing the primary participant status from the campaign group.

So far, JFSA members have been excluded from any compensation plan, beyond what they were awarded after they took the Post Office to court and showed that the financial deficits were caused by a system computer scientist at the Post Office, not by them.

In 2009, a Computer Weekly investigation revealed for the first time that subpostmasters were blamed for unexplained accounting deficiencies, which many suspected were caused by the computer system they use to do the accounts. (See below for the timeline of Computer Weekly’s stories about the scandal.) They had to cover the deficits with their own money and many went bankrupt. There were also 736 prosecutions of former deputy administrators for financial crimes, and many were sent to prison.

When the chairman of the public inquiry announced the final list of issues the inquiry would cover, he said that financial compensation would be included for the victims, but was not explicit if this included the 555 that took the Post Office to court and won. .

Following their victory in multi-million pound group litigation, the 555 former subpostmasters received compensation of £ 57.75 million. However, due to the need for litigation funding to fight a state organization willing to spend more than 100 million pounds, the sub-bidders were left with just 11 million pounds.

When distributed to victims, this did not even cover the money that many had paid to the post office to cover unexplained losses.

Compensation scheme

The Post Office was forced, as part of the agreement, to open a compensation plan for subposters affected by the errors of the Horizon system, but excluded it from taking them to court. The Post Office and the government repeatedly claim that the money awarded in the settlement was total and final. The court case has also resulted in deputy administrators having grounds to appeal criminal convictions related to unexplained losses. So far, the convictions of 72 subpostmasters who received criminal convictions for false accounting or theft have been overturned. The government has promised each of them a provisional compensation of £ 100,000.

None of this would have happened without the victory of the JFSA and the High Court.

The JFSA has always stated that its first demand of the investigation is to obtain fair compensation for its members. This includes reimbursement of their £ 46 million legal costs, all money reimbursed by subpostmasters to cover losses that did not actually exist, and compensation for losses and suffering over the years, as members they were wrongly blamed for accounting errors.

Last week, Alan Bates, who formed the JFSA in 2009, asked members to withdraw their support for the investigation, as it is unclear whether fair financial compensation is included for them.

Following the withdrawal of the JFSA from the main stake, the investigation wrote to the campaign group to confirm that it would include financial compensation for its members in the investigation.

It read: “On behalf of the chairman, Sir Wyn Williams, I can confirm that paragraph 183 of the Investigation Issues List is intended to consider whether all deputy directors, deputy directors, managers, assistants, including the 555 Plaintiffs in the class litigation of the Alan Bates et al. case against the post office was adequately compensated for the grievances they had suffered. “

Bates wrote to JFSA members: “It could be just a coincidence that the statement appeared after the JFSA withdrew and encouraged others to join it, because the issue of financial compensation for the group was not on the final Issue List, or it has simply been a failure to clarify that point when [the list] it was written. You decide, but now it’s there, in writing. “

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