Sub-postmasters shortchanged over Horizon scandal to get full compensation

Sub-postmasters celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in 2021
Sub-postmasters celebrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London in 2021 - TOLGA AKMEN/AFP
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A group of wrongfully convicted sub-postmasters will finally receive full compensation.

Five victims were originally offered lower sums because the Post Office did not believe that evidence about faulty Horizon software was essential in their prosecutions.

However, Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office minister, has now agreed that they should have equal treatment.

Parmod Kalia, one member of the group, said he hid his prison sentence from his elderly mother out of shame.

Mr Kalia spent £22,000 of his own money attempting to balance the accounts of his Oprtington branch but was ultimately still prosecuted by the Post Office.

Despite pleading guilty to one count of theft, in the hope that he would receive a more lenient sentence, a judge sentenced him to six months in prison in 2001.

Yet when Mr Kalia’s conviction was quashed in 2021, the Post Office did not oppose his appeal because it wasn’t in the public interest to pursue a retrial.

Sub-postmaster spent £22,000 of his own money trying to balance the books
Sub-postmaster spent £22,000 of his own money trying to balance the books - UNPIXS

However, the Post Office said that if there had been a retrial, there was a reasonable prospect of convection and therefore he was not owed full compensation for malicious prosecution.

However, he and four other victims – known as “public interest” cases – have been told they will be treated the same as other wrongfully convicted victims.

Mr Kalia told the BBC it was “about time” such a decision was made.

“It was Horizon that showed the discrepancy, and based on that, our cases are Horizon-related,” he told the broadcaster.

Prof Chris Hodges, chairman of the Independent Horizon Compensation Advisory Board (IHCAB), said the board had raised the issue.

He told The Telegraph: “This did not seem fair or just to us. The HCAB said firmly that they should all be treated the same and be entitled to the same level of full and fair compensation.

“We are delighted for these individuals that it has now been clarified that they will be entitled to the same level of compensation as others whose convictions were overturned.”

Kevin Hollinrake has agreed that the sub-postmasters with lower compensation should have equal treatment
Kevin Hollinrake has agreed that the sub-postmasters with lower compensation should have equal treatment - MARIA UNGER/AFP

More than one hundred Horizon victims have had their convictions overturned so far.

Mr Hollinrake said: “All affected postmasters should be treated equally and anyone who lost out due to the Post Office IT scandal will receive full and fair compensation.

“That’s why I’ve agreed that the five postmasters, who were previously not, are now eligible for compensation including the £600,000 offer if they wish to take that.”

Mr Hollinrake added: “We know compensation won’t right the wrongs of the past but now these postmasters have the option to claim £600,000, if that is their preference, to get on and rebuild their lives.

“Whilst I hope this will bring some consolation and peace to these five cases, there is no limit to compensation for those postmasters who choose to decline this sum and choose the full assessment route instead.”

Neil Hudgell, a lawyer representing two of the five sub-postmasters and mistresses, said: “I am delighted to see the Government are treating the public interest cases in the same manner as all of the other acquittals.

“It’s always been an area of disquiet for me that they have been signed out on technical legal grounds.”

He added: “I think the whole issue of Horizon and the way it has affected all prosecutions means that this is a fair outcome.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: “More than £34.49 million has been paid in compensation to people whose convictions have been overturned to date, including 33 full and final settlements.”

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