Horizon scandal: Five short-changed postmasters to get full compensation

1 week ago 18

Parmod Kalia (l) and Teju Adedayo (r) former sub-postmasters

Image caption,

Parmod Kalia (l) and Teju Adedayo (r) are both now eligible for full compensation

By Esyllt Carr & Emma Simpson

BBC News

A small group of former sub-postmasters whose convictions were overturned have finally been told they will receive full compensation.

They had been offered a much lower sum by the Post Office because it did not believe evidence about Horizon software was essential in their prosecutions.

But now Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake has agreed they should have equal treatment.

For Teju Adedayo and Parmod Kalia it is a huge relief.

"I'm extremely grateful to the minister for this u-turn, but it should never have happened in the first place," said Ms Adedayo.

"About time, too," adds Mr Kalia.

It brings an end to years of frustration for the pair, who said it left those in their position feeling "victimised all over again".

They are two of just five sub-postmasters who became known as the "public interest cases".

When Ms Adedayo and Mr Kalia had their convictions quashed at Southwark Crown Court in 2021, the Post Office did not oppose their appeals on the grounds that it wasn't in the public interest to pursue a retrial.

However, the Post Office said if there had been retrials, there was a reasonable prospect of conviction and therefore Ms Adedayo and Mr Kalia were not owed full compensation for malicious prosecution.

For Professor Chris Hodges, chair of the Independent Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, their situation was "unfinished business".

"I'm delighted these victims of a procedural trap are to be treated fairly and on a par with all others whose convictions are to be overturned," he said. "The injustice of their situation has rightly been recognised."

For Ms Adedayo and Mr Kalia, it has been a bitter pill to swallow after fighting to clear their names.

"I believe the Post Office was being spiteful. Instead of accepting they'd made a mistake," said Ms Adedayo.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters were prosecuted for stealing money because of incorrect information provided by a computer system called Horizon, developed by Fujitsu.

"It was Horizon that showed the discrepancy, and based on that, our cases are Horizon-related," said Mr Kalia, who used to run a post office in south east London.

After suffering for so long, both felt under pressure to accept a financial settlement offered to them by the Post Office - a sum well short of what was offered to others who were wrongfully convicted.

"I've suffered 21 years of this," says Mr Kaia. He added: "I was advised by my family to take it, and turn your back on the rest of it."

He was sentenced to six months in prison after being advised by his union representative to plead guilty to theft in 2001.

Since then, he has suffered poor physical and mental health, and at one stage attempted to take his own life.

He kept his conviction a secret - even from people close to him - for 15 years.

Ms Adedayo also falsely confessed to being responsible for the shortfalls at her post office in Kent to avoid the risk of ending up in prison. In the end, she was given a suspended sentence and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

"I could not imagine leaving my children and going to jail," said Ms Adedayo. "How was I going to survive that? I was so petrified."

She pleaded guilty to false accounting and says her criminal record has made it difficult for her to find work since.

"For the past 17 years, it's been a struggle," she said. "It has affected my children, my family - my dad had a heart attack."

Now, Ms Adedayo, Mr Kalia and the rest of the group of five will be included in the same compensation scheme as others who were wrongfully convicted.

In a statement, Mr Hollinrake told the BBC: "All affected postmasters should be treated equally and anyone who lost out due to the Post Office IT scandal will receive full and fair compensation.

"That's why I've agreed that the five postmasters who were previously not, are now eligible for compensation including the £600,000 offer if they wish to take that."

Those whose convictions are overturned can choose to take a fast-tracked £600,000 settlement, or can enter into negotiations if they feel they are entitled to more. All eligible people are entitled to an "interim" payment of £163,000 while their final settlements are processed.

Mr Kalia said he is going to choose the alternative option of a full assessment for compensation, given all that he lost.

Although he fears that could be yet another battle ahead.

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