Every post office operator whose wrongful conviction over the Horizon IT scandal has been overturned will receive £600,000 in compensation from the government, ministers have announced.
The Horizon scandal, described as “the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history”, resulted in more than 700 post office operators being prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 for theft, fraud and false accounting because of faulty accounting software installed in the late 1990s.
The government said that to date 86 postmasters have had their wrongful convictions overturned and £21m has been paid in compensation.
“This is about righting a wrong and providing some form of relief to those wrongfully caught up in this scandal,” said Kevin Hollinrake, the business department minister with responsibility for the Post Office.
The government said that the compensation offer is in addition to paying for all reasonable legal fees, and any post office operator who does not want to accept this offer can continue with the existing legal process.
Any post office operator who has already received initial compensation payments, or has reached a settlement with the Post Office of less than the £600,000 offer announced on Monday will be paid the difference.
“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,” Hollinrake said.
The IT system, installed by the Post Office and supplied by Fujitsu, resulted in postal operators filing shortfalls in their returns and led to the Post Office suing them.
Some spent time in prison, and the scandal has been linked to four suicides. It is the subject of an inquiry led by the retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams, which was made statutory in 2021.
In 2021, the government announced interim payments of £100,000, which were later raised to £163,000.
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