The government today announced new legislation to ‘swiftly exonerate and compensate victims’ of the Post Office scandal.
Victims will receive £600,000 in compensation, with an additional £75,000 available to the ‘vital’ subpostmasters who brought the initial civil case in 2019. This group of 555 victims previously received a settlement following a high court case in 2019, however much of the £43m pay-out was lost to legal costs.
James Hartley, the lawyer who represented the GLO group of postmasters, has described the announcement as a ‘sensible step forward’.
The Horizon Scandal is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history. During 1999 to 2015, use of the defective Horizon IT system led to over 700 people being wrongfully convicted of theft, false accounting, and fraud. Strikingly, only 93 of these convictions have been quashed to date.
The government have come under pressure following the recent ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which has significantly increased public awareness of the issue.
Former Subpostmaster Tom Hedges, speaking last year to students at the University of Manchester, highlighted the financial challenges victims faced. “Finding employment after conviction with a criminal record was incredibly difficult, especially for older victims” he said.
For some, this announcement has come much too late. Martin Griffiths tragically lost his life by suicide in 2013, aged just 59. The father-of-two was falsely accused of financial misconduct at the Post Office. His nephew Samuel Caveen told the Liverpool Echo “The weeks after Martin died were the worst weeks of our lives”.