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Independent scrutiny brought into compensation negotiations for wrongly prosecuted subpostmasters

Former Supreme Court judge will offer his view on the valuation of compensation for wrongly convicted subpostmasters

Lawyers negotiating the compensation valuations for former subpostmasters who suffered wrongful convictions have brought in independent judicial scrutiny to break an impasse.

Negotiations have been ongoing since former subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted for financial crimes in the Post Office Horizon scandal began to have their convictions overturned.

The two negotiating teams have made good progress on the valuation of pecuniary loss, which can be calculated mathematically, but there is a gap on non-pecuniary losses. These include loss of liberty, damage to reputation, and psychiatric injury.

Neil Hudgell of Hudgell Solicitors said in May that judicial intervention was “inevitable” to close the gap.

In a letter to the law firm representing the Post Office, Herbert Smith Freehills, in May, Hudgell wrote that the Post Office valued non-pecuniary losses, including “loss of liberty, damage to reputation, psychiatric injury and other aggravated and exemplary damages”, in five figures, while the claimant lawyers put it in six figures.

“In other words, for a conviction dating back to the early 2000s, you [the Post Office] place a value at most at £5,000 per annum, or £100 a week,” wrote Hudgell. “On those numbers, as you would expect, we are poles apart.”

Former Supreme Court judge and barrister John Dyson will offer his independent opinion on the likely outcome if the dispute were to go to court.

A statement from Hudgell Solicitors said: “While there is case law in this area which indicates what likely awards might look like, the current circumstances here are unique.

“In order to find a way to resolve this issue, the Post Office and a number of the former subpostmasters, represented by Hudgell Solicitors, have agreed that the issue of non-pecuniary damages should be referred to an early neutral evaluation.”

The opinions offered by Dyson are not binding on the parties, but it is hoped this will help resolve the issues. Dyson’s evaluation is expected to be concluded by the end of July.

More than 700 former subpostmasters were convicted of crimes after being blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls based on evidence from the Post Office’s Horizon retail and accounting system used in branches, which was later proved to be error prone. It is the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history, with convictions overturned for 75 of those convicted so far, many of which are represented by Hudgell Solicitors.

In 2009, Computer Weekly revealed the scandal with the stories of seven subpostmasters affected by the problems (see timeline below of Computer Weekly articles since it broke the story in 2009).

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

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