A message from Sir Wyn Williams on his Interim Report on Compensation
Sir Wyn Williams gave a short statement on 17 July 2023 to mark the launch of his interim report, which was laid before Parliament under section 24(3) of the Inquiries Act 2005. A transcript of his message is published below.
Last September, I thought it right to speak in public to describe the sequence of events which had been unfolding in the work of the Inquiry during 2022.
I spoke of the evidence which I had heard and read, which consisted of graphic descriptions of hardship and suffering which very many former sub-postmasters had endured, and in some cases were still enduring.
I explained how that evidence had made a deep impression upon me. It is now approximately 16 months since I first began to hear the human impact evidence as we call it in the Inquiry.
It is more than 12 months since I brought that phase of the Inquiry's work to a close.
Yet the effect of the evidence upon me hasn't changed. It hasn't lessened to a degree.
Many hundreds of people suffered disastrous consequences by reason of the misuse of data from Horizon, and thousands more suffered very significantly.
In the light of the evidence I heard between February and late spring last year, I decided that it was imperative that I should pay very early attention to the processes for delivering compensation to those who are entitled to claim it.
I reached that conclusion because at the same time as I was hearing of the misfortunes of so many adversely affected by unreliable data, Ministers of the Crown and very senior representatives of the Post Office, were asserting and repeating that all who had legitimate claims for compensation should receive it promptly. In fact, they also said that compensation should be assessed at an amount which was and was recognised to be full and fair. And they repeated that frequently too.
In my view, it was part of my remit to ensure that His Majesty's Government and the Post Office made good on those promises.
There are three schemes in existence by which compensation can be delivered to eligible applicants. They came into existence at different times, and are responses to very different sets of circumstances as they unfolded.
What has emerged is a patchwork quilt of compensation schemes. And, unfortunately, it is a patchwork quilt with some holes in it.
I'm sure that if the Government and the Post Office were setting out now to devise a scheme to deliver compensation to all those who have suffered losses, there would not be three different schemes, but rather one comprehensive scheme which would be capable of delivering appropriate compensation for all applicants.
As I have said, however, the three schemes have evolved in response to circumstances and are now established. I have been of the view for some months that we are too far down the road with each scheme to contemplate abandoning them in favour of one comprehensive scheme.
However, I have reached the conclusion that it is now appropriate for me to make recommendations to the Minister, which have the specific aim of ensuring that the applicants to each scheme are treated fairly and consistently across all schemes; that proper time is allowed for compensation payments under the Group Litigation Order Scheme to be assessed and paid out; and for the recently constituted Horizon Compensation Advisory Board to be used to maximum effect.
I am firmly of the view that such recommendations should be made in an interim report laid before Parliament pursuant to the relevant section of the Inquiries Act 2005. I have therefore delivered such a report to Minister Hollinrake this morning.
I want to stress that the delivery of my interim report is not the end of my involvement in issues relating to compensation. I will hear and read evidence about compensation issues during Phase Five of the Inquiry.
As I hope will be obvious from my treatment of compensation issues throughout the Inquiry, I will not hesitate to return to such issues if the need arises while the work of the Inquiry is ongoing.