In a statement released on 9 January, the Chair of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, Sir Wyn Williams has addressed some of the concerns around the delays in reaching settlements for those affected individuals.
Following the wrongful convictions of more than 700 sub-postmasters and mistresses due to failures in the Horizon IT accounting systems, three compensation schemes were set up: the Historical Shortfall Scheme (HSS), the Overturned Historic Convictions Scheme (OHCS) which are run by the Post Office Limited (POL) and the Group Litigation Scheme (GLS), supervised by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The latest statement from the Chair focuses on the submissions received by the Inquiry made at the compensation hearing that took place on 8 December 2022. The report highlights the consequent compensation delays faced by the sub-postmasters and mistresses, issues around bankruptcy and insolvency of applicants and the need to urgently resolve complex claims. Sir Williams will monitor the progress made in compensating the victims by holding another hearing in April 2023.
The report acknowledges the slow pace and complexity of the compensation settlements, causing further delays. At least a hundred applicants for the HSS had still not received their compensation offers, more than two years after their applications had been made. Sir Williams’ report expresses serious concerns regarding the efficiency of those schemes, stating ‘…on any view, the rate of progress towards final settlements for those who were wrongly convicted is too slow. I welcome the fact that further or top-up interim payments will be made available to applicants but, in my view, there is now a clear need for an injection of urgency into the process of compensating those who were wrongly convicted.’
The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry is investigating the failings associated with the use of the Horizon IT software by POL. The first of seven phases of the Inquiry concentrated on the people affected; phase two focused on the technicalities of the Horizon IT software. Phase three of witness hearings began yesterday and runs until 20th January. It will consider the training the sub-postmasters and mistresses received to use the software.
Another hearing on compensation issues will be held in April 2023 to monitor the progress made in delivering compensation by the three schemes, including the insolvency issues.