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The UK government has offered £600,000 each to postal workers wrongly convicted over a faulty computer system, as officials try to draw a partial line under the long-running scandal.
More than 700 people were wrongfully prosecuted for theft between 2000 and 2014 due to failures on state property. Mail offices Horizon computer system. To date, 86 convictions have been overturned.
The Department of Business and Trade said on Monday that postmasters whose convictions had been quashed would be offered the lump sum, adding that they would not have to accept it if they wished to continue with current compensation processes.
Kevin Hollinrake, Post Office Minister, said the announcement was aimed “to right a wrong and provide some form of relief to those who have been unfairly caught up in this scandal”.
“The government remains committed to seeing this through to the end until it is resolved and ensuring this does not happen again,” he added.
But some MPs and peers said the offer failed to solve the problem for many, and that few of those affected were eligible.
“It is not a solution to the fundamental problem of unfairness, delays and costs,” said Lord James Arbuthnot, a Conservative peer and member of the government’s independent advisory board on Post Office compensation.
“I doubt the sum will be large enough to attract many takers, but it is a small and useful step,” he added.
Ministers have set aside a total of £1bn for compensation under various schemes. More than £120 million has been paid to 2,600 people affected by the Horizon scandal, according to the Post Office.
In July, the head of a public inquiry into the Horizon scandal warned victims suffered serious delays to funds due to a “mosaic patchwork of compensation plans.” Monday’s offer is an attempt to streamline the process.
Kevan Jones, Labor MP for North Durham and member of the independent advisory board, said many affected postmasters were still too traumatized to come forward, and this posed a key barrier to justice.
Monday’s announcement applied to those who had been wrongfully convicted, while others facing bankruptcy and reputational damage were entitled to compensation under separate plans.
Some 555 postmasters settled with the Post Office following a High Court ruling in 2019 that helped expose the scandal, but much of the compensation was used to cover legal costs.
In March, the government launched a plan to compensate these people.
The Post Office said Monday’s offer was optional and affected postmasters should still seek independent legal and professional advice.