Horizon Post Office scandal: Former Scottish island sub-postmaster calls on politicians for harder compensation push

A UK-wide public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal is underway to exonerate those with criminal convictions, but there are some postmasters who still remain out of pocket.

A former sub-postmaster on Scotland’s west coast said politicians are failing to commit to ensuring all postmasters and postmistresses impacted by the Horizon Post Office scandal are correctly financially recompensed.

Alastair Redman, who ran Portnahaven Post Office on Islay for 12 years, was one of thousands of sub-postmasters hit by the faulty accounting software, which made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

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More than 900 of them were prosecuted for “stealing” money because of the incorrect information provided by a computer system called Horizon, developed by Fujitsu for accounting and stocktaking.

Alastair Redman ran Portnhaven Post Office for 12 years before selling up in 2017. Picture: Alastair RedmanAlastair Redman ran Portnhaven Post Office for 12 years before selling up in 2017. Picture: Alastair Redman
Alastair Redman ran Portnhaven Post Office for 12 years before selling up in 2017. Picture: Alastair Redman

An inquiry is underway to overturn these criminal convictions. But Mr Redman said there were still victims of the scandal who, while they might have avoided prosecution, ended up out of pocket, and have who have not received the compensation they deserved.

The island resident, who is now an Argyll and Bute councillor, said he often had to put his hand in his own pocket to make up the shortfall in money in his former branch, which has now been sold.

The Post Office said there was a Horizon shortfall scheme available for postmasters affected to apply for compensation.

Alastair Redman, who ran Portnhaven Post Office on Islay for 12 years, said the scandal has "shaken our nation to the core."Alastair Redman, who ran Portnhaven Post Office on Islay for 12 years, said the scandal has "shaken our nation to the core."
Alastair Redman, who ran Portnhaven Post Office on Islay for 12 years, said the scandal has "shaken our nation to the core."

But Mr Redman said the money simply did not cover the emotional and financial cost of what he and his peers went through. Some of those accused or prosecuted committed suicide over the scandal.

The councillor has since made contact with politicians to highlight his concerns, but said there “seems to be a reluctance” to commit to his call for action.

"The only way to get proper compensation for everyone affected is for every Horizon transaction correction that has ever come through and been settled to cash or cheque between 1999 and 2015 to be paid back to the relevant postmaster,” he said. "Some were worse off than others, but nearly all sub-postmasters made good on all sorts of discrepancies with their own money, be it from a few pounds to tens of thousands.”

A spokesperson for Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s secretary for business, said the shadow minister was engaged in ongoing conversations with UK Government ministers regarding a compensation settlement for sub-postmasters.

Mr Redman outside the post office on Islay before it was sold.Mr Redman outside the post office on Islay before it was sold.
Mr Redman outside the post office on Islay before it was sold.
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A spokesperson for the Scottish Greens said MSP Ariane Burgess would write to the business and trade committee of the UK Parliament to raise Mr Redman’s concerns. Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said he would use Mr Redman’s story in discussions with Scottish ministers.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said those whose “reputations trashed and lives ruined” in the scandal were owed an explanation.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to hear of the experiences of one of our former postmasters on Islay. There have been several versions of Horizon since its introduction in 1999 and the current version of the system, introduced from 2017, was found in the group litigation to be robust, relative to comparable systems.

"We established the Horizon shortfall scheme specifically to provide recompense for postmasters who experienced shortfalls with previous versions of Horizon."

They said £110 million has been paid out so far, and the scheme remains open for late applicants.

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