Post Office IT scandal victims may be disqualified from compensation scheme

Scores of post office operators wrongly accused of embezzlement by the Post Office due to faulty accounting software, may be disqualified from a dedicated compensation scheme.

至少 170 branch managers have been told that they may not be repaid money wrongly deducted from their wages in what has been described as “the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history” because they were unaware of the scheme, which was launched for just three months during the 2020 封锁.

多于 700 branch managers were convicted of fraud between 2000 和 2014 after Horizon, a new computer system installed by the Post Office, showed apparent shortfalls in their accounts. Hundreds more were ordered to pay sums of up to five figures after being accused of stealing Post Office funds.

The Historic Shortfall Scheme (HSS) to compensate those left out of pocket was set up in 2020 after the Post Office admitted years of failings, but claimants were only given three months to apply. The scheme was extended for a further 15 weeks following pressure from campaigners, but those who missed the deadline face an indefinite wait to hear whether their claims will be considered.

Vivien Hammond, 87, is one of those who submitted a late claim after the scheme closed before she was aware of it. She said her late husband had his wages docked when the Horizon system was installed because Post Office staff wrongly accused him of accounting shortfalls. “We were never informed of a compensation scheme for those who paid what was demanded without being convicted,“ 她说. “I wrote to the Post Office for information but I never got a reply and when I consulted a solicitor they told me I should have applied in 2020. As my husband was dying of cancer in 2020, my attention was elsewhere.”

The National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) has campaigned unsuccessfully for the scheme to be reopened with no cut-off date so that late claims can be considered. “Despite the regular commentary in the press or radio and TV programmes over the years, we believe there are some colleagues who were still unaware of the HSS or that they could make a claim,” said the NFSP’s chief executive, Calum Greenhow. “The NFSP believes that it is imperative that all colleagues who suffered unexplained losses are able to claim under the scheme.”

The Post Office said it wrote to thousands of post operators when the scheme was launched and is aware of at least 170 late claimants, including Hammond. It said it was reviewing how it might assist them, but pointed out that it lacks the financial resources for appropriate compensation and is reliant on government funding. It declined to state when it expects a decision about late claims to be reached, but claimed it has written to the claimants for more information. Hammond says she has not received a letter. 迄今为止, 48% 的 2,336 eligible claimants who applied in time have received payouts.

A spokesperson for the Post Office said: “We are in no doubt about the human costs of the Horizon scandal and it is our priority to ensure there is appropriate, meaningful compensation for victims.”

Hammond says she is uncertain how much her husband was forced to pay the Post Office when shortfalls were erroneously identified. “I don’t care if it’s tuppence ha’penny, because it’s about the principle,“ 她说. “How can it be that the Post Office should benefit from a mistake in their computer system which they should have identified at the time? My husband carried the knowledge that he’d been falsely accused to the grave and I want it acknowledged that he wasn’t dishonest.”