Postmasters win Horizon payout – but did Post Office chiefs get off lightly?


CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said today the union was “pleased” compensation and an apology have been achieved by the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) on behalf of Postmasters in their long-running legal action against Post Office bosses over the Horizon scandal.

The BBC reported this afternoon that the financial settlement is ‘almost £58m’ and the Post Office’s new chief executive officer Nick Read said: ‘…we have fallen short and we apologise to those affected’ – both developments that have been warmly welcomed by the union, as we have been very sympathetic to the 557 complainants.

And, although Andy said he was “obviously pleased an outcome has been secured for the long-suffering former Postmasters,” he added: “Based upon the legal costs already incurred, the Post Office would be saving tens of millions of pounds by avoiding the court cases scheduled for next year as the costs associated with these would have amounted to somewhere in this region, if not higher.

“So while it’s great news that this large group of former Postmasters, who have been appallingly treated by their employer, have achieved compensation and an apology, I can’t help asking if the Post Office may have got off lightly here.

Andy continued: “It was absolutely outrageous what happened in this case, and the sheer anguish that this group of hard-working Postmasters were subjected to, as the Post Office made one ill-judged error after another and seemingly attempted to cover up the failings of Horizon by attacking the innocent.

“There should be a full judicial inquiry into this scandal and the full force of the law should be brought down on those board members and directors responsible,” he insisted.

The CWU fully supports the actions and objectives of the JFSA, which brought the case, and the union has highlighted the fact that the NFSP – which Justice Fraser described as not being independent of the Post Office and is the only organisation to have ‘official recognition’ by the Post Office for Postmasters – refused to support the action and effectively turned a blind eye to many hundreds of their former members who made legitimate complaints about the grossly unfair treatment by the Post Office.

“This union can and should be very proud of the role we play in supporting our Postmaster members, particularly Mark Baker our branch secretary,” Andy continued, adding that, “if the formal inquiry we’ve called for does go ahead, there also need to be serious questions asked about the NFSP and their far-too-cosy relationship with the company, which was at the very core of the problems faced by these Postmasters.”

Andy added “the union will be calling for Parliamentary scrutiny of what has transpired and led to this landmark settlement for so many unjustly penalised Postmasters. The new government needs to ensure those responsible for this travesty are held to account and we will also be campaigning in Westminster to ensure the Post Office has to recognise the CWU as the legitimate voice of Postmasters.”

·         Notwithstanding today’s development, the presiding judge, Justice Fraser we are told will still be handing down his judgement on the Second Trial next Monday.

·         For further information, please see (links to LTB 703, Nick Wallis’s blog, Computer Weekly and BBC articles)