Hundreds of Post Office (PO) retailers wrongfully accused of theft, fraud and false accounting by PO should receive immediate compensation, according to a senior barrister representing subpostmasters at the ongoing independent inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal.
The first public hearing in the government’s Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry took place on 8 November. Sam Stein QC, representing 151 former and current subpostmasters, spoke at the hearing to demand that reparations for affected store owners should be made now, rather than at the end of the inquiry.
Speaking on the day, he said: “PO has had plenty of time to sort this out. They should not be permitted to add to the extent of the PO scandal by doing nothing, delaying payment, prolonging suffering and avoiding responsibility.”
Following a prolonged legal battle, PO finally accepted in 2019 that problems with its Horizon till system had led subpostmasters to be prosecuted and financially penalised.
However, nearly all of the £58m settlement was used to pay the postmaster claimants’ legal fees.
“PO Ltd and [the Department for Business] need to recognise that payments of proper and full compensation, and the return of legal costs, is required now,” Stein told the inquiry last week.
Following the first public hearing last week, inquiry lead Sir Wyn Williams confirmed he would be applying for a confidentiality waiver in order to ask major parties including PO, technology provider Fujitsu and the UK government to hand over previously unseen documents related to the scandal.
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