Chair's Statement - In Your Own Words

  1. The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry is now in its fourth year. Initially it was a non-statutory inquiry. Although a small number of people adversely affected by Horizon participated in the inquiry from the outset most of the people affected regarded the inquiry as “toothless” and refused to participate in its work. 
  2. In June 2021 the non-statutory inquiry was converted into an inquiry governed by the Inquiries Act 2005 i.e. it became a full-scale public inquiry. Since that time approximately 250 people who have been adversely affected by Horizon have come forward and described the emotional trauma and financial hardship from which they have suffered. For a significant number of those people the trauma and hardship continues. I have written and spoken of the deep impression made upon me by all the accounts I have read and heard  on more than one occasion since the “Human Impact” phase of the Inquiry concluded in May 2022. 
  3. Yet despite the best attempts of the Inquiry and the ever-increasing publicity given to its work the number of people adversely affected by Horizon who have engaged with the work of the Inquiry is a small fraction of the total number of people adversely affected.
  4. How do I know this? In the civil litigation which was portrayed to such telling effect in the TV drama Mr. Bates v the Post Office, there were approximately 550 Claimants. Most of those Claimants are pursuing compensation over and above that which they received as a consequence of the settlement of the litigation in a scheme known as the Group Litigation Order (GLO) Scheme. In the aftermath of the litigation and, as a consequence of it, a compensation scheme now known as the Horizon Shortfall Scheme (HSS) was established. The Claimants in the GLO litigation were not eligible for compensation under this scheme (i.e. the HSS) but at least 2,800 people have made eligible claims. More than 100 people have had criminal convictions quashed by the Courts of England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and they are being compensated under yet another scheme. There is proposed legislation relating to England and Wales which, if enacted, would quash the convictions of many hundreds of convicted persons whose convictions have not been considered by the Courts. While there may be some overlap between convicted persons and the group of people who sued the Post Office in the civil litigation there can be no doubt that the number of persons adversely affected by Horizon runs to some thousands.
  5. While many of those adversely affected by Horizon were and are sub-postmasters and former sub-postmasters, I recognise that a much wider range of people have suffered adverse consequences. I want to stress that anyone who has suffered such consequences should feel free to participate in the initiative which was launched by the Inquiry on 13 March 2024 and which has been styled “In Your Own Words”.  My ardent hope is that this initiative will provide a suitable vehicle for those persons who wish to describe their experiences with and in consequence of Horizon in detail but who do not wish to participate in the formal processes of the Inquiry by becoming a Core Participant or by giving evidence either in writing or orally.  
  6. All the issues canvassed and to be canvassed in this inquiry are very important. However, I need no persuading that many issues relating to the delivery of full and fair compensation promptly have been controversial and, no doubt, will remain so. In consequence, I would like to make a direct appeal to those who have made claims in the various compensation schemes but who are not Core Participants and who have, as yet, not engaged in any way with the Inquiry to use “In your Own Words” to describe their experience of the operation of these schemes. It falls to me to make a judgment about whether the Post Office and His Majesty’s Government have fulfilled their commitment, often repeated, to provide full and fair compensation promptly. The more information I receive from as wide a spectrum of applicants the better. There will, of course, be formal evidence gathering about issues relating to compensation in Phase 7 of the Inquiry which will form the basis for my conclusions about compensation. However, a substantial body of information about compensation issues from large numbers of people responding to “In Your Own Words” will, no doubt, assist my legal team and I to pursue appropriate lines of enquiry and, thereby, unearth reliable evidence.  

Sir Wyn's signature



Sir Wyn Williams
5 April 2024