Every victim of Horizon must get full compensation – Carmichael

9 Jan 2024

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken in Parliament on the need for “full compensation” for all victims of the Horizon Post Office scandal, and highlighted a local case which he assisted in recent years.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office prosecuted 736 sub-postmasters and mistresses based on information from the faulty Horizon IT system. More than 700 branch managers were given criminal convictions – 93 of these convictions have been overturned to date.

Mr Carmichael previously led a debate in Parliament on the administration of the Historic Shortfall Scheme, set up by the Post Office to compensate those victimised by the Horizon scandal, and raised concerns about the way the scheme was being run. In particular raised the serious challenges faced by the late Elena Kimmett, formerly postmistress in Stromness, and her family in securing compensation.

Speaking in the House on Monday evening, Mr Carmichael said:

“The Minister has heard from me previously about the difficulties faced by the executors of my constituent, who was a victim of this scandal and has subsequently died. Ultimately, the difficulty with my constituent’s case was that she had been putting in her own money to make up shortfalls and the executors did not know how much they should settle for, because the Post Office itself had no idea what the proper sum ought to be.

“In such circumstances, what can the Government do to ensure every victim of this scandal gets the full compensation to which they are entitled?”

Responding for the government, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Kevin Hollinrake MP said:

“Again, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the work he has done on behalf of his constituent and I am so sorry to hear she has passed away. I have a similar situation in my constituency. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, compensation will be paid to the executors, who will probably be family members, so it is not about any saving of money but nevertheless we still want to accelerate the process.

“I totally agree with what he says about the lack of evidence in some cases, which may be 20 years old. In those situations, the benefit of the doubt should be with the victim, ensuring that the settlement is assessed as generously as possible and paid out as quickly as possible.”

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:

“ITV’s dramatization of the Horizon scandal has had a cut-through that no campaign previously has been able to have, though this has been a live political issue for some years. Indeed this was the eighth ministerial statement on this sorry tale that I have attended in Parliament, in addition to leading a debate on the matter in 2021.

“Quite aside from the speedy completion of payments to those who are still waiting for justice, we need reform in the Post Office to ensure that such a scandal cannot happen again. From what I have seen of the culture in Post Office senior management in recent years I fear we have some way to go on that count. It is hard to square what senior Post Office figures were telling ministers, law officers and the general public over the years before the scandal broke, and what they knew to be true themselves.

“The Post Office is a public institution – it is owned by all of us. Those at the top must be reminded of their accountability to the public, so that the attitudes which led to Horizon do not return in the future.”

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