Post Office Horizon scandal

The government has confirmed it will pay an interim £19.5m to the former 555 subpostmasters who brought the first Group Litigation Order (GLO) against the Post Office (PO) in the Horizon IT scandal.

Last week, small business minister Paul Scully made the announcement, stating “hurdles” remained in finalising the full payment.

In his public address, Scully said: “These postmasters played a crucial role in uncovering the scandal, but, due to legal and funders’ costs, have received less compensation than others,” he said. “This simply isn’t fair.

“This is why we have set up a scheme to ensure they don’t lose out. I can announce that an interim payment of £19.5m will be paid to them, but to be clear this is not the final compensation they will receive, this is the next step to provide recompense to the GLO, who had their lives blighted by the Horizon IT scandal.”

The 555 took the PO to court in 2018, but after legal costs were paid out of the awarded compensation, they were left with little, and the government refused to distribute more funds.

However, in March that year, the government made a U-turn, agreeing to further payment, following pressure from campaigners, MPs and victims. Scully stressed that “hurdles” remained in ensuring subpostmasters received the full payout. “There are some hurdles still to clear in terms of finalising the full scheme, but I can promise that my team are working at pace on this,” he said. “I can also announce our intention to appoint Freeths, which represented postmasters during the GLO to provide data as part of this work.

“Supporting postmasters affected by the Horizon IT scandal remains a top priority for me and I hope this underlines that fact.”

A spokesperson for the PO added: “Ensuring full, fair and final compensation for all Horizon Scandal victims is a priority as we put right the wrongs of the past. Almost two thirds of postmasters in the historical shortfall scheme have received compensation offers, the majority of which are already paid.”

The Communication Workers Union’s branch secretary, Mark Baker told betterRetailing: “We hope these interim payments reach the claimants as quickly as possible without any undue interference or further prevarication by PO or government lawyers. The CWU urges all parties to also work at pace to reach full and final settlements of all claims, including those who have had their criminal convictions overturned.”

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