Post Office needs help with compensation for wrongful convictions, says boss

The head of the Post Office has warned it does not have the money to compensate all its former staff who were falsely blamed for financial discrepancies.

Tracy Felstead, left , from Telford, and Rubbina Shaheen, right, from Worthen, near Shrewsbury, have both had their cases referred to the Court of Appeal
Tracy Felstead, left , from Telford, and Rubbina Shaheen, right, from Worthen, near Shrewsbury, have both had their cases referred to the Court of Appeal

Nick Read said the Government would need to step in with taxpayers' money to help settle with claims from former post-office workers – including three from the West Midlands who were wrongly jailed because of a computer error.

Tracy Felstead, 39, from Telford, was jailed for six months in 2001, after being accused of stealing £11,500 when she was a 19-year-old counter clerk.

Rubbina Shaheen, 56, who kept Greenfields Post Office in Shrewsbury, was jailed for 12 months in 2010 after being convicted of false accounting.

Carl Page, 55, who kept Anson Road Post Office in Rugeley, was jailed for two years in 2007 after being accused of stealing £94,000. All three had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal in April last year after it emerged that the discrepancies could have been caused by a computer glitch.

Mrs Felstead, of Bournside Drive, Brookside, said she had received an interim payment of £100,000, but was still waiting to hear what the final settlement would be. Mrs Shaheen's husband Mohamed said an initial offer had been made.

Mr Read told MPs yesterday that he hoped to agree settlements with "all but a handful" of 2,500 claimants by the end of the year.

But he said the Post Office would need help from the Government to ensure all the staff were properly compensated.

"The Post Office itself doesn't have the financial resources to compensate a miscarriage of justice of this scale," he told the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.

In total, 950 staff, mostly sub-postmasters, were prosecuted for a variety of charges from 1999 onwards. But many of these cases were later linked to problems in the Horizon. So far, 72 convictions have been overturned.

Mr Read said that 66 of those people who saw their convictions overturned had applied for an interim £100,000 payment designed to "bridge the gap" until a full settlement could be reached.

The Post Office has made payments to 57 of those.

Business manager Paul Scully said: "As soon as convictions have been overturned, the Post Office will be paying those interim payments within 28 days."

But the Post Office is yet to be able to contact 127 of the 736 former postmasters whose convictions were linked to Horizon.

"It is my intention that we do give full and final compensation of all the victims of the past and their families," Mr Read said.

He added: "There is an enormous amount of complexity associated with making sure we get absolutely right how we compensate those postmasters.

"And most importantly that it's full, it's fair and it's final."

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