It was a busy day for Post Office Ltd on 2 October as they announced that they would not be contesting the appeals of 44 subpostmasters who were convicted because of the Horizon scandal. Alongside this, the more than 2,000 applicants to the Historic Shortfall Scheme (HSS) were sent the Terms of Reference of the Independent Advisory Panel. This was accompanied by a second document defining the Principles and Guidance for assessing claims for Consequential Loss.
This is the first chance for applicants to the HSS to understand how their Horizon loss will be assessed. The document defines what an Eligible Claim is. The Terms of Reference state that “where there is evidence that the shortfall in question existed and was paid; and there is no evidence that the shortfall was caused by something other than a potential issue with Horizon, for the purposes of the Scheme the presumption is that the shortfall is a Horizon Shortfall.”
The word that has been used by Post Office Ltd and others to describe the HSS since its launch at the beginning of May is that the is an intention for its processes and outcomes to be fair. As an applicant to the scheme the publication of these Terms of Reference is the first time that I have been fully able to understand how my application will be assessed. I now know that once the Post Office confirm my recollection of my final balance it is most likely to be seen as a Horizon Shortfall.
The submission that I made involved one incident and I was able to provide the exact date, in the most challenging cases Sub postmasters have not been able to provide such clear evidence. It is a matter of trust that the Post Office Ltd will invest adequately in the research that will be required to resolve these applications fully and fairly.
Steve Denham, former subpostmaster