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Post Office scandal: how many subpostmasters have received compensation?

The cast of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office about the Horizon IT scandal (ITV Plc)
The cast of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office about the Horizon IT scandal (ITV Plc)

More than two decades ago, the Post Office’s Horizon IT scandal shattered the lives of hundreds of UK subpostmasters.

In one of the country’s biggest miscarriages of justice, more than 900 were wrongly accused of fraud, theft, and false accounting in the early 2000s. This was due to faulty technical systems in Post Office branches.

As the Post Office sought to reclaim discrepancies in its payments, subpostmasters were forced to pay thousands out of their own pockets to balance their books. Others were jailed, lost their homes, and had to pay hefty legal fees.

As documented in the recent ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, the subpostmasters have been endlessly campaigning for compensation and for those involved to be held accountable.

An ongoing inquiry, fuelled by the public outcry following the ITV show, has accelerated recent efforts to finally compensate those involved.

At the same time, the former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton recently cast uncertainty over compensation efforts after alleging he was advised to delay subpostmaster payouts until after the general election. A Government representative has denied the claims, while Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch branded the accusations a “disgraceful misrepresentation”.

Here’s everything you need to know about the ongoing compensation progress.

Former subpostmaster Alan Bates (centre) outside the High Court in London in March 2019 (PA Archive)
Former subpostmaster Alan Bates (centre) outside the High Court in London in March 2019 (PA Archive)

How many convictions were there?

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office convicted 700 subpostmasters who it now believes could be linked to Horizon systems. There were 983 cases, including those not prosecuted by the Post Office.

The Post Office has contacted the majority of these people but is still unable to make contact with 25 former subpostmasters who were convicted.

To date, just 101 of these convictions have been overturned. These include eight that didn’t involve the Post Office as the prosecutor.

Fifty-five convictions have been upheld.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office was broadcast on ITV1 on four consecutive days from January 1, 2024 (ITV)
Mr Bates vs The Post Office was broadcast on ITV1 on four consecutive days from January 1, 2024 (ITV)

How many people wrongfully convicted have received compensation?

Any subpostmaster wrongfully convicted as part of the scandal is eligible for a £600,000 settlement. Alternatively, they can negotiate if they believe they should get more.

The Government has paid £34.49 million in compensation to people who had convictions overturned and have accepted a final offer. Only 33 wrongful convictions out of 101 have been settled so far.

Several other compensation schemes have also been established in recent years.

In 2019, 555 subpostmasters took the Post Office to the High Court and were awarded almost £57m. Legal fees swallowed a large proportion of this, and each person was awarded only £20,000.

The Horizon Shortfall Scheme was similarly set up for people who weren’t convicted but suffered considerable financial losses due to the Horizon IT system. There have been more than 2,745 eligible claims to the scheme operating on a case-by-case basis.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office convicted 700 subpostmasters who it now believes could be linked to Horizon systems (PA Wire)
Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office convicted 700 subpostmasters who it now believes could be linked to Horizon systems (PA Wire)

How much has been paid out?

According to the Guardian, £130m has been paid to subpostmasters across the existing payment schemes.

However, reports suggest that the Post Office halved the amount of money it had set aside for the cases after it received fewer appeals than anticipated.

The ongoing inquiry will likely bring more to light about ongoing compensation programmes and how future payouts may work.

Paul Patterson, the Europe director at Fujitsu, in January 2024 apologised to furious MPs. He said Fujistu had a “moral obligation” to contribute after providing the faulty Horizon system.

“The right place to determine that is when our responsibility is very clear. There are many parties involved in this travesty,” he said.

Did Mr Bates receive compensation?

Mr Bates was among the 555 claimants who took the Post Office to the High Court, meaning he was also eligible for around a £20,000 payout.

In January 2024, Mr Bates rejected a further compensation offer proposed by the Government, calling it “offensive.”

He told the Telegraph: “I will absolutely be turning this offer for financial redress down.

“It is just a terrible way to treat human beings — and I have heard from several subpostmasters who have received similarly derisory offers, while others are still waiting.

“Bearing in mind my solicitors engaged forensic accountants to prepare my claim in accordance with established legal principles, it now seems we have to spend hours and hours over weeks and months with Government-appointed lawyers at who knows what cost, just to point out these legal principles to them. But to them, it might just be a good earner.”