Asub-postmistress who “lost everything” after being accused of stealing from the Post Office in the Horizon IT scandal has tearfully warned that she will not be eligible for Rishi Sunak’s £600,000 compensation scheme.
As an ITV drama about the long-running scandal sparked public outrage, the government announced on Wednesday it would overturn the convictions of more than 900 postmasters wrongly convicted in what Mr Sunak described as “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history”.
But while these postmasters are now eligible for £600,000 in compensation, those who were not convicted but wrongly ordered to pay back shortfalls in Post Office balance sheets – created by errors with Fujitsu’s Horizon IT system – will qualify only for a lesser £75,000 payment under the new plans.
The Post Office has already conceded it owes compensation to thousands of postmasters forced to pay back these incorrect shortfalls, with 2,645 people so far offered an average of £44,450 in compensation since the initial Horizon Shortfall Scheme was set up in 2019.
But one former sub-postmistress in Newcastle, who lost her life savings when she repaid a fake shortfall, gave an emotional interview on Thursday warning that the government’s new offer of £75,000 “just doesn’t cut it”.
Sarah Burgess-Boyd, who was acquitted of theft at a trial in 2011 when the Post Office submitted no evidence, two years after she first reported seeing a shortfall on Horizon, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I have lost everything. I’ve lost my business, all my savings.
“I haven’t got a penny to my name,” she said, her voice strained with emotion as she fought back tears. “I’m not future-proofed. I’m nearly 60, I have no pension provision. I’ve lost my reputation – l lost everything.”
Claiming the Post Office doesn’t “seem to know or care what they’ve done to hundreds of people”, Ms Burgess-Boyd said “it would appear that government is the same”, adding: “I watched the news last night and the prime minister’s little speech.
“I am really, really pleased that they are going to overturn convicted subpostmaster’s convictions, and he talked a little about financial redress, offering £600,000 to each convicted subpostmaster.
“But there are lots of us who were not convicted, who have lost a great deal and he’s said he’s offered us £75,000. That just doesn’t cut it.”
She added: “I would like to be put back into a position where I would be now in my life if the Post Office hadn’t have done what they did.
“I would like that financial stability so that I can enjoy the rest of my life. I’ve had 15 years of living hand to mouth, and I had a thriving business. It’s all gone.”