Subpostmaster campaign group to meet government over unfair compensation settlement

A group of subpostmasters excluded from fair compensation in the Horizon scandal is to meet government department to discuss their demands

The subpostmaster campaign group responsible for exposing the Post Office Horizon scandal is to meet with the government to discuss fair compensation for their suffering.

The Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) is made up of 555 former subpostmasters who took the Post Office to the High Court and won, proving the computer system they used in branches caused unexplained accounting shortfalls for which they were blamed. But they have so far been left out of schemes introduced by the government to compensate thousands of former subpostmasters.

These 555 subpostmasters were awarded £57.75m after their court victory, but were left with just £11m after legal costs were taken out, with derisory sums paid to individuals which didn’t even begin to cover their financial losses, never mind the suffering. 

JFSA representatives, including its founder Alan Bates, will meet officials in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) tomorrow (Wednesday 26 January).

The JFSA was set up in 2009 following a Computer weekly investigation that revealed the stories of subpostmasters who had their lives ruined as a result of being held responsible for losses that didn’t actually exist. Many were prosecuted and sent to prison. They and others lost their businesses and homes to repay the Post Office (see timeline of Computer Weekly stories below).

Since the JFSA’s High Court victory in 2019, 72 former subpostmasters have had criminal convictions for financial crimes such as theft and false accounting overturned.

The Post Office was also forced to set up a compensation scheme for any subpostmaster affected by Horizon errors over the years, which 2,500 people have been accepted onto, and established its Alternative Dispute Resolution process to compensate subpostmasters who were prosecuted. Subpostmasters with overturned convictions have been offered interim payments of £100,000 while the total compensation is calculated.

Computer Weekly recently revealed that the government has made £1bn of taxpayers’ money available to the Post Office to cover the costs of paying compensation to victims in the scandal. But the 555 JFSA members have been left out of the schemes, with government constantly reaffirming that the settlement after the High Court trial was full and final. Had it not been for the determination of the JFSA and the huge expense it went to to expose the scandal, what is now referred to as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history may have never been uncovered. 

There is increasing pressure on the government to change its stance, and BEIS minister Paul Scully told a select committee that the only thing holding back fair compensation for the 555 is the mechanism to do so.

The JFSA members were critical to unearthing the extent of the Horizon scandal, but have been left with nothing. Many have been suffering for two decades and the government is being pressured to quickly compensate them.

Labour MP Kevan Jones, who has campaigned for justice for subpostmasters for over a decade, recently said: “Without the 555 subpostmasters successfully taking civil action, we would not have discovered the lies, deceit and subsequent cover-up by the Post Office, nor would we have had unsafe convictions overturned or the current judge-led statutory inquiry.

“It is time for the government to look again at why this group is currently carved out of existing compensation schemes and recognise that appropriate compensation must be put forward.”

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon case since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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