Yesterday, (6th July 2022) the Horizon Inquiry held an ‘Issues of Compensation’ Hearing.
The four legal representatives who spoke were; Counsel to the Inquiry, Post Office Limited (PO), UK Government Investments, and Howe & Co.
Some of the points made during the session include:
- A lack of independence and clarity over the compensation scheme
- Should the perceived ‘wrongdoers’ be the ones to decide if late HSS applications can be allowed through?
- PO did not set out the criteria for late HSS applications, so this remains unclear
- NFSP’s query to the Inquiry that the absence of a Head of Historical Matters led to a delay in offers made. PO responded that the internal structure was revised after the announcement of the Inquiry becoming a Statutory Inquiry, PO’s position is this did not cause delay
- It was highlighted that those who have already accepted offers, may not have included consequential losses, which have since been included as compensation
- Tax implications to awards – shortfall compensation does not incur tax, however things outside of this compensation could incur 20% tax is due, PO advise instructing a tax expert
- “The Horizon system is a product of negligence and lack of care of the people who operate it (PO) and owned it (Fujitsu).”
- “The HSS scheme in effect directing hurdles that no horse can jump” – for instance, in regards to asking individuals to provide evidence, knowing that this was been destroyed after six years
- PO should not be the final arbiter of compensation claims
Current situation as given to the Hearing today
- To date, PO has made 1659 offers made so far, which is 70% of all applications. 1300 have accepted offers, 92 have rejected. On course to meet the target 95% of applications by the end of the year
- Interim payments – 28 payments have been made – they have specific concerns such as hardship. None of the interim payment would prevent the full payment being made. PO appeared not to be keen on setting up a ‘sub fund’ separate to the full scheme
- PO also disagree the decision of whether or not to make an interim payment is unfair if the decisions is made by them
Questions remain unanswered at present
- Legal claims – PO considering whether contributions towards further legal or other professional costs can be made available to applicants to help resolve their claims. PO will update the Inquiry as soon as a decision has been made
Immediate actions requested
- The request for immediate, significant interim payments to all outstanding claimants was made
- A timetable be set out for the GLO compensation scheme capable of being monitored and followed by all involved. Following the postmasters being left in ignorance of what was going on elsewhere
- Children and family members should be included in the compensation scheme and able to make a claim