UK PM Rishi Sunak pays tribute as new law tabled in Post Office scandal

03:57 PM Mar 13, 2024 | PTI |

“I want to pay tribute to all the postmasters who have shown such courage and perseverance in their fierce campaign for justice and to those who tragically won’t see the justice they deserve,” said Sunak.


“While I know that nothing can make up for what they’ve been through, today’s legislation marks an important step forward in finally clearing their names. We owe it to the victims of this scandal who have had their lives and livelihoods callously torn apart to deliver the justice they’ve fought so long and hard for and to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” he said.

The blanket exoneration, delivered through the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill, will quash convictions brought about by erroneous Horizon evidence, clearing the names of many people who have had their lives ruined. Affected sub-postmasters will also receive an interim payment with the option of immediately taking a fixed and final offer of GBP 600,000.

Under the proposed new Bill, convictions will be automatically quashed if the postmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or charged with offences carried out in connection with Post Office business between 1996 and 2018 and relevant offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.

The UK government has also confirmed it will bring forward enhanced financial redress for postmasters who were not convicted or part of legal action against the Post Office but still suffered considerably due to Horizon’s failures.


These individuals, also known as the “Horizon Shortfall Scheme” cohort, will have the option to receive a fixed sum payment of GBP 75,000. Those who have already settled for less money will have their redress topped up to this level, bringing them in line with the approach taken for members of the Group Litigation Order group of postmasters.

“Postmasters have been fighting for justice for years, and I hope the introduction of today’s legislation is the light at the end of the tunnel they have been waiting for… For those who don’t choose this option, their claims can be assessed as part of the usual scheme process, in which there is no limit to compensation,” said Postal Affairs Minister Kevin Hollinrake.

The UK’s Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has now been made responsible for delivering the new Horizon Convictions Redress Scheme, which will make redress payments to those who have had their convictions quashed by today’s legislation. The DBT said the aim is to have the scheme open for applications as soon as possible once the legislation has been passed.

“It is absolutely right that we sweep away the convictions wrongly given to postmasters on the basis of bad evidence, and it is a disgrace that they were ever pursued by the Post Office,” said Kemi Badenoch, Trade and Business Secretary.

“These are exceptional circumstances which require an exceptional response to ensure those who were wrongly convicted can not only clear their names but be fairly and swiftly compensated,” added Justice Secretary Alex Chalk.

Before receiving financial redress, sub-postmasters will be required to sign a legal statement vowing that they did not commit the crime for which they were originally convicted. Any person found to have signed a statement falsely to gain financial redress may be guilty of fraud.

The TV drama ‘Mr Bates Vs The Post Office’, which aired in the UK in January, catalysed this simmering issue dating back many years. In 2019, a London High Court ruling had approved a GBP 57.8 million settlement between hundreds of claimants and the Post Office but many were still left to overturn their convictions.

The controversial Horizon system, developed by the Japanese company Fujitsu, was first rolled out in 1999 to some post offices to be used for a variety of tasks, including accounting and stocktaking. But, it appeared to have significant bugs, which could cause the system to misreport, sometimes involving large sums, as was the case with these sub-postmasters.


Udayavani is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest news.