Postmasters who have had their Horizon IT scandal-related convictions overturned are being offered interim compensation payments of up to £100,000 each, the government has announced.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) pledged none of the 57 individuals who qualified to date would be “left out of pocket” as the government-owned Post Office worked towards full settlements.
Hundreds more are working to get their own convictions quashed in a case related to a faulty IT system, known as Horizon, which saw sub-postmasters accused of theft and fraud.
It incorrectly showed cash shortfalls, which resulted in many of the 550 postmasters involved being sacked, forced to hand over personal savings to make up for losses or even put in prison.
BEIS said: “The Post Office is contacting postmasters and will aim to make an offer for an interim payment within 28 days of receiving an application from those whose overturned convictions relied on Horizon evidence.
“If and when further such convictions are quashed, those postmasters will also be eligible for the payments.”
Postal affairs minister Paul Scully added: “The suffering and distress these postmasters and their families have gone through cannot be overstated.
“While nothing will make up for the years of pain they faced after this appalling injustice, I hope this initial step provides a measure of comfort.
“The Post Office has started to turn a corner in terms of dealing with its past mistakes – and this government will support them in doing so wherever possible.”
It has been estimated that the taxpayer faces a total bill exceeding £300m.
The latest convictions to be formally quashed, involving 12 former sub-postmasters, took place this week at the Court of Appeal.
One of them, Sami Sabet, ran two Post Office branches in Brighton and Shoreham-by-Sea.
Her ended up with £100,000 of debt trying to pay the money back despite having repeatedly tried to tell the Post Office that he was not to blame and that it was the fault of Horizon.
He told Sky News: “You couldn’t imagine the anguish I have suffered. There’s not a single minute of a single day that I didn’t go over this.”
© Sky News 2021