Postmasters have criticised the government’s £600,000 payout to Horizon victims and are calling for individual compensation.
On 18 September, the government offered £600k to each postmaster can prove they were falsely imprisoned for the Horizon IT accounting scandal, a flawed computer system that saw 700 postmasters prosecuted. They were accused of theft, false accounting, and some were imprisoned.
Postmasters who have already received initial compensation payments, or have reached a settlement with the Post Office (PO) of less than £600k, will be paid the difference.
Some retailers have called for the compensation to be allocated on an individual basis.
Vince Malone, owner of Premier Tenby Stores in Pembrokeshire, told Better Retailing: “When you look at the impact this has had on individuals’ lives or businesses, there needs to be more negotiating on an individual level, rather than a £600k paid out.
“The decisions made in the past had such a big impact on individuals, it should be an individual negotiation. It needs to be rectified as soon as possible.”
Malone said that it may be for some £600k is “a fair return” – but for others it will be “almost insulting”.
“If you look at the amount of time that’s gone by, and the impact it has had, it’s not enough.”
Sean Hudson, national branch secretary of the Subpostmasters Branch of the Communications Workers Union, agreed the £600k is not enough, commenting it “barely scratches the surface”.
“I think it’s a cynical attempt to buy off subpostmasters who have suffered injustice for years and years,” he said.
“If you take into account their loss of earnings and the psychological damage they’ve suffered, it won’t come anywhere near £600k – it’s more than that.”
Last year, tech company Fujitsu admitted its involvement in the scandal, and admitted it was aware of “numerous issues” with the IT system.
“We’re still in the position where even aside from compensation, we’re yet to see anyone held responsible for what’s actually happened in terms of PO employees and Fujitsu employees,” said Hudson.
Meanwhile, Guarave Sood, owner of Neelam store in London, said the payout by the government is “a colossal amount of money”, but only those affected “know how they feel and whether it makes them feel better”.
He added: “We’ve lost lives over it, some have committed suicide, some have not been able to work for over two decades. Lots of lives have been ruined.”
However, PO minister Kevin Hollinrake said at the figure is “about righting a wrong” and providing “some form of relief” to those caught up in this scandal.
He continued: “Too many postmasters have suffered and for too long, which is why the government remains committed to seeing this through to the end until it is resolved and ensuring this cannot ever happen again.”
All ‘reasonable legal fees’ will continue to be covered, the government revealed, and any postmaster who does not want to accept this offer can continue with the existing process.
The government said it believes this announcement can finally bring the ‘pain to a close’ for postmasters caught up in the scandal.
The government added that its aim is to ensure as many postmasters involved receive this monetary offer ‘as fast as possible’ to help bring a ‘resolution’ to the scandal.
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