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Government urged to save '555' Post Office workers from "financial ruin"

MPs say sub-postmasters are entitled to far more than the £20,000 court win

Former subpostmasters celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, on April 23, 2021, following a court ruling clearing subpostmasters of convictions for theft and false accounting.

The UK government is facing pressure to adequately compensate the 555 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses who took the Post Office to court in 2019 over its faulty Horizon software.

Despite winning the case and having their names cleared, high legal fees meant that they only received £20,000 per person, significantly below the more than £100,000 in estimated losses said to have been sustained in the years following their wrongful convictions.

The court settlement also prohibited the group, also known as ‘the 555’, from benefiting from the Historic Shortfall Scheme – a fund created by the Post Office to compensate another group of 181 victims following the original court case.

Many of the subpostmasters and subpostmistresses are now said to be facing “financial ruin” and even homelessness.

Darren Jones, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, which authored the report into the Post Office–Horizon compensation, described the scandal as “one of the largest miscarriages of justice in British history”.

“It is clearly entirely unacceptable that the group of 555 victims who first brought this scandal successfully to court are being left in a worse position than those who are being compensated thanks to their action. There is no valid reason to exclude the 555 from being fully compensated and the Chancellor must come forward with the required funding now,” he said.

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Jones urged the government and the Post Office to “speed up their efforts to deliver full, fair and final compensation for every single victim”.

“Justice will not be done unless they do so,” he added.

Earlier this week, Post Office chief executive Nick Read told the Telegraph that all victims of the Horizon scandal will receive compensation by the end of 2022.

“We have made good progress to offer redress to those affected by this scandal. The overwhelming number of the 72 people who have had their convictions overturned have now each received interim compensation payments of £100,000,” he added.

The Fujitsu-developed Horizon system, used for accounting and stockpiling, was used as evidence to successfully convict 736 people of theft and false accounting between 2000 and 2014.

The story was first reported back in 2009 by Computer Weekly, which has since continued to campaign on behalf of the postmasters.

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