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Horizon scandal damages may top £1bn - minister

The minister responsible for the Post Office has said he “doesn’t care how much it costs” to compensate victims of the Horizon IT scandal, and that it might top the £1bn allocated.

Kevin Hollinrake accepted that payments to sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted have been “too slow”, but insisted the government was “moving things forward quickly”.

Two former sub-postmasters questioned the minister on Sunday as part of a TV debate on BBC Politics North.

Janet Skinner from Hull told the minister that “actions speak louder than words".

Ms Skinner was sent to prison in 2007 after being wrongly accused by the post office of theft, following an alleged shortfall of £59,000.

In response, Mr Hollinrake replied: “We are overturning all the convictions. A single piece of legislation will overturn around 700 convictions. That should be through by July."

The minister added: “We have set a maximum budget at this point in time for this scandal of £1bn. It may well exceed that, but that shouldn’t be something that stops people getting fair compensation."

A new law has been introduced that is expected to clear the majority of sub-postmasters, with an option for those who were wrongly convicted to settle for £600,000 without the need to bring a formal claim.

'Justice'

Another former sub-postmaster who had questions for the minister was Lee Castleton, whose story featured in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

Mr Castleton ran a post office in Bridlington in East Yorkshire.

In 2004 he reported issues with the Horizon computer system, which saw huge discrepancies appearing in his branch accounts.

The Post Office took Lee Castleton to the High Court, where he lost and was made bankrupt after he became liable for costs totalling £321,000.

Lee Castleton said “Justice needs to happen with financial redress”.

The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry is due to resume in London on 9 April.

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