Wrongfully convicted postmasters still awaiting compensation a year later

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Postal workers involved in the Horizon computer scandal said they were no closer to getting compensation a year after the first convictions were overturned.

Neil Hudgell, the lawyer leading the compensation negotiations, has called for the cases to be settled by the end of the year to prevent victims from facing further financial ruin.

Thirty-nine long-standing convictions were overturned by the Central London Court of Appeal on April 23 last year, and the number has since risen to 73.

Mr Hudgell said: ‘We need to close these cases in this calendar year so these decent, honest people can get on with their lives and finally enjoy some peace of mind.

“Many feel strongly that their continued suffering continues to be used as leverage to make paltry settlement offers.

“For some poor postmasters, time has beaten them, they have died or lost their ability. For others, time is running out too.

“Perhaps the words of a deputy postmaster best sum up the current position.

“They said, ‘I’m worried now that the interim payment is running out, just to settle personal loans, debts and essential home repairs – my freezer, washer and microwave have all packed up these last months, and now my boiler.

“I may no longer be a criminal, but I am still a victim.

“La Poste continues to control my life and cause me stress and sleepless nights”.

Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, at the Royal Courts of Justice (Hudgell Solicitors)

Mr. Hudgell added that although most deputy postmasters received interim payments from the post office, they believe that these payments were only made so that the institution could feel that “they did them a favour” instead of returning the money wrongly taken.

He called for another round of interim payments to settle agreed losses and a speedy resolution of disputes with Post Office lawyers to resolve ongoing issues, adding: “We are poles apart in how we assess some of the losses suffered by the sub-positions.”

The Court of Appeal has already heard that the lives of many sub-postmasters have been ‘irretrievably ruined’ as they lost their jobs, homes and marriages after being sued by the post office – who knew the system Horizon developed by Fujitsu had “flaws and bugs from the early days of its operation”.

Hundreds of people who ran Post Office branches were convicted of offenses – including theft and false accounting – during the system’s period of use.

The Post Office said it had provided ‘quick financial relief’ with interim payments of up to £100,000 to the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the 73 people whose convictions were overturned.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are sincerely sorry for the impact of the Horizon scandal on the lives of the victims and their families. We do not doubt the human cost.

“While we cannot change the past, we have taken determined action to ensure that justice is served for those affected, along with full, just and final compensation.

“We provided rapid financial help with interim payments of up to £100,000 to the overwhelming majority of the 73 people whose convictions were overturned, ahead of final settlements.

“Separately, we have made compensation offers to more than half of those who applied for the Historic Deficit Program, and of those, the majority have already been accepted and paid. The offers and payments continue to be performed weekly.

The Post added that it is “cooperating fully, openly and transparently” with the ongoing statutory inquiry into Sir Wyn Williams while carrying out “fundamental” internal reforms.

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