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Post Office scandal: Former postmaster says government compensation offer that covers 15% of claim is 'insulting'

A victim of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal has labelled his compensation offer "insulting" as it covers less than 15% of his claim.

Christopher Head became the youngest postmaster in the UK when he took over his local branch in West Bolden, near Sunderland, in 2006.

He says he experienced problems with the Horizon software "from day one" before he was suspended from his job in 2015.

The Post Office accused him of stealing more than £80,000. The criminal case against him was dropped after six months but the Post Office then launched a civil case that remained open until 2020, by which point he had lost everything.

Mr Head says he was forced to move abroad to start again because "it was the only place I could find employment".

The former postmaster submitted a claim to the government's compensation scheme in September and received the offer just after Christmas, which he says "doesn't even cover the past loss of earnings".

"It's what they said it wasn't going to be, which is insulting," he told Sky News.

"That shows, as far as I'm concerned, that they have no intention of putting you back in the position that you would have been in."

The letter from the Department for Business and Trade, shared exclusively with Sky News, states: "The Department hopes you agree that the offer is fair and reasonable."

Mr Head is believed to be the first to receive an offer in a so-called 'complex' case, which covers damages beyond just shortfalls.

His seven-figure claim was compiled with the help of a forensic accountant, which is a condition of the process that is paid for by the government.

They used case law to help calculate the figures but where they requested in the region of £75,000 for reputational damage, the government offered £5,000.

"We don't believe that they've actually read the claim form in full because they've made a lot of mistakes within how they've assessed it," he said.

Following his investigation, Mr Head says he was an outcast in his local area.

"You had people talking in the street, people when we went to the local pub.

"They would say 'Chris has committed fraud, he's been a thief'.

"It's not just the impact on me but on my family as well. £5,000 for that kind of damage just doesn't cover it."

The recent ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office has catapulted the scandal into the public spotlight, with ministers making numerous promises to put things right.

Mr Head accuses the government of being "misleading" in their statements.

"We can only believe it by the actions that they make, and the actions that they're making in my own case, and in several others that I've seen, it's just not happening," he said.

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Labour MP Kevan Jones, who is a member of the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, believes the process is too "bureaucratic".

He blamed lawyers "quibbling over quite small amounts" and said there is a "tendency" by the Post Office to be "slow releasing information".

"What we need to do is cut through that," he told Sky News.

"Where evidence doesn't exist or some has been destroyed, for example, we should take the word of the claimant. That would speed it up."

Read more:
Victim 'overwhelmed' after conviction overturned
Compensation chief to step down from board
Horizon system 'still causing mystery shortfalls'

A Department for Business and Trade spokesperson said: "We have made funding available to ensure all victims of the Horizon scandal can deservedly receive compensation and have established the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry to identify what happened and ensure lessons are learned.

"Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, if any applicant to the GLO scheme feels that they are owed more than is being offered, they should speak to their legal advisers to appeal their claim, and these cases are overseen by an independent panel that includes legal and accountancy experts."

More than 900 Post Office workers were wrongly convicted after Fujitsu's faulty accounting software, Horizon, made it look as though money was missing from their accounts.