One of the UK’s youngest sub-postmasters wrongly accused of theft during the Post Office Horizon scandal has criticised the ‘bad’ offers of compensation being offered by the Government.
Christopher Head, who was just 18 in 2006 when he took over a newsagents and sub-post office at West Bolden, Tyneside, also called for the introduction of an agreed interim payment for all accepted claims.
It comes as Alan Bates, the former sub-postmaster who led the campaign for justice in the scandal, said he will reject an offer of compensation from the Government, branding it ‘derisory, offensive and cruel’.
Mr Head, now 36, was offered around £5,000 in compensation for reputational damage instead of £75,000. The Post Office accused him of stealing more than £80,000 during his time running the branch.
He told MailOnline on Thursday: ‘I didn’t expect the offer to be that bad.
‘Had the Government come to the table with 50 per cent, it would give an indication that they are maybe more serious.
‘However, when you get 12 or 13 per cent, you’ve got an uphill climb.
‘It certainly feels like a big game to the Government and it appears they don’t fully understand our circumstances especially when they said to me my offer “was fair and reasonable”.’
When asked about how the scheme was being run, he said: ‘I feel [the compensation schemes] are just being dragged out and dragged out.
‘The Government shouldn’t be running these compensation schemes, it’s a car crash waiting to happen.’
After spending years developing his business and becoming a strong pillar of the West Bolden community, he started to experience unexplained shortfalls occurring under the flawed Horizon computer system which the Post Office bought from IT giant Fujitsu.
At first the amounts were small enough for him to cover from his own pocket but in 2014, the problem became serious problems.
The system needed to be constantly rebooted, sometimes up to 12 times a day, and he was told it needed to be replaced because it had ‘corrupt data’.
When the new computer system was installed, Mr Head discovered that Horizon was now showing a £40,000 shortfall, which quickly doubled to £80,000.
Mr Head was suspended in 2015 and a criminal investigation was launched, which was later dropped. The Post Office then launched a High Court action to recover the money before later dropping it in 2019.
The Government later confirmed plans for ‘full and fair compensation’ to sub-postmasters affected by the IT scandal.
However, since the 2019 High Court ruling, victims have claimed the compensation process has been slow.
Mr Head called for the introduction of an agreed interim payment where a percentage of the total claim is paid when a claim is accepted, as well as an independent body to handle the claims.
He added: ‘When a claim goes forward, there should be no question that an interim payment should be agreed to because it shows that they are going to be serious.’