Post Office coughs £57.75m to settle wonky Horizon IT system case

Split between 550 subpostmasters accused of theft, that's not much

The UK's Post Office has finally agreed to settle a long-running case brought by postmasters the company accused of theft based on evidence from the Horizon IT system.

Claimants (and their lawyers, of course) will split £57.75m in order to settle Bates and others v the Post Office.

The biz said in a statement: "The Post Office would like to express its gratitude to claimants, and particularly those who attended the mediation in person to share their experiences with us, for holding us to account in circumstances where, in the past, we have fallen short and we apologise to those affected."

It said the new chief executive was committed to learning lessons and that the company would be "undertaking an ambitious and sustained programme of changes to the Post Office's relationship with postmasters".

Freelance journalist Nick Wallis, who has been reporting on the case since 2010, pointed out that litigants would have spent about £22m, assuming their legal bills were similar to the Post Office's. Wallis noted the case was backed by litigation funder Therium and by his rough maths on what they would expect to be paid, he estimated payments for each of the 550 litigants would be between £47,000 and £78,000.

Given that these people have already had to pay back money the Post Office claimed they had stolen, and in some cases were prosecuted for stealing, these are not huge figures.

One former subpostmaster told Wallis: "This is nothing but a great win for the Post Office. My losses alone came to £200,000. This compensation will not cover the fraudulent claims that the Post Office took from me. I am 75 and still work to live and pay my mortgage. There will be no celebrating this decision."

Wallis said Post Office directors were likely smiling at the news and congratulating their press officers at getting it released today, while the UK General Election is taking place and British media attention is elsewhere.

The case dates back to the turn of the century when the Post Office began accusing thousands of subpostmasters of dipping into the tills based on "evidence" from its Horizon IT platform. Many were told to pay back supposedly missing funds or face prosecution. Some were convicted and imprisoned while hundreds more pleaded guilty to lesser charges to end further action.

We have contacted the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which was investigating the convictions of some postmasters, for an update.

The case was in court earlier this year (March proceedings here) where the judge said the Post Office "has resisted timely resolution of this Group Litigation whenever it can".

The court found that changes to Horizon software radically reduced transaction corrections it needed to issue. These fell from £22.8m in 2007 to under £1m after "the ping fix" was introduced in 2012.

Individual post offices found that the system introduced thousands of pounds of losses. One subpostmaster, Pamela Stubbs, found that Horizon generated a shortfall of £9,000 over Christmas and New Year 2009, a period when her post office branch was closed.

Wallis's crowd-funded blog is here. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Research finds consumer-grade IoT devices showing up... on corporate networks

    Considering the slack security of such kit, it's a perfect storm

    Increasing numbers of "non-business" Internet of Things devices are showing up inside corporate networks, Palo Alto Networks has warned, saying that smart lightbulbs and internet-connected pet feeders may not feature in organisations' threat models.

    According to Greg Day, VP and CSO EMEA of the US-based enterprise networking firm: "When you consider that the security controls in consumer IoT devices are minimal, so as not to increase the price, the lack of visibility coupled with increased remote working could lead to serious cybersecurity incidents."

    The company surveyed 1,900 IT decision-makers across 18 countries including the UK, US, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, finding that just over three quarters (78 per cent) of them reported an increase in non-business IoT devices connected to their org's networks.

    Continue reading
  • Huawei appears to have quenched its thirst for power in favour of more efficient 5G

    Never mind the performance, man, think of the planet

    MBB Forum 2021 The "G" in 5G stands for Green, if the hours of keynotes at the Mobile Broadband Forum in Dubai are to be believed.

    Run by Huawei, the forum was a mixture of in-person event and talking heads over occasionally grainy video and kicked off with an admission by Ken Hu, rotating chairman of the Shenzhen-based electronics giant, that the adoption of 5G – with its promise of faster speeds, higher bandwidth and lower latency – was still quite low for some applications.

    Despite the dream five years ago, that the tech would link up everything, "we have not connected all things," Hu said.

    Continue reading
  • What is self-learning AI and how does it tackle ransomware?

    Darktrace: Why you need defence that operates at machine speed

    Sponsored There used to be two certainties in life - death and taxes - but thanks to online crooks around the world, there's a third: ransomware. This attack mechanism continues to gain traction because of its phenomenal success. Despite admonishments from governments, victims continue to pay up using low-friction cryptocurrency channels, emboldening criminal groups even further.

    Darktrace, the AI-powered security company that went public this spring, aims to stop the spread of ransomware by preventing its customers from becoming victims at all. To do that, they need a defence mechanism that operates at machine speed, explains its director of threat hunting Max Heinemeyer.

    According to Darktrace's 2021 Ransomware Threat Report [PDF], ransomware attacks are on the rise. It warns that businesses will experience these attacks every 11 seconds in 2021, up from 40 seconds in 2016.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021