UK government appoints Freeths to oversee new compensation scheme for Post Office victims

More than 500 postmasters eligible for fresh compensation over Horizon IT scandal
Windsor, UK- Feb 10, 2020: Post Office Sign outside a post office in Windsor

shawnwil23; Shutterstock

Top 50 UK national firm Freeths has been appointed by the UK government to help oversee a new scheme to compensate victims of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal.

The government has agreed to introduce a new scheme for postmasters who were first to take legal action against the Post Office after they were accused of theft or false accounting due to faulty accounting software that led to shortfalls in their accounts. 

The scandal has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history. 

An initial settlement of £43m plus legal costs in 2019 was mostly swallowed up by the associated legal costs of funding their case and they were subsequently ineligible for another scheme – the Historical Shortfall Scheme (HSS) – that was set up to compensate other affected postmasters.

Freeths will work with the Justice for Postmasters Alliance to design and implement the fresh scheme to award further compensation to the more than 500 victims who first helped expose the Horizon scandal. The UK government today said it would provide a £19.5m interim compensation package for those postmasters in the original Group Litigation Order (GLO) while the new scheme is finalised. 

James Hartley, a partner and national head of dispute resolution at Freeths, said: “We are delighted that the government is doing the right thing for the GLO claimants. It will achieve closure for them and deliver fair compensation. We are committed to driving this through to a conclusion in the interests of the claimant group.”

The government said it was appointing Freeths due to its unique knowledge and expertise regarding the distribution of the 2019 settlement. 

Paul Scully, postal affairs minister, said: “These postmasters and their families have shown immense courage in the face of terrible circumstances. I hope this initial step provides some comfort to these pioneering postmasters while reaffirming our commitment to ensuring they receive their fair share in compensation.”

Almost two thirds of eligible HSS claimants (1,550 postmasters) have now received a compensation offer, which Scully hopes will reach 100% by the end of this year.

As of 27 June, 73 postmasters who had their Horizon-related convictions overturned have applied for an interim compensation payment, the government said in a statement.

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