Post Office boss set to return bonus after Horizon scandal

Post Office

The boss of the Post Office will return all of his bonus payment for his work on the Horizon inquiry into hundreds of wrongfully convicted postmasters.

Nick Read apologised for “procedural and governance mistakes made” in the firm between 2000 and 2014.

Around 700 Post Office workers were wrongfully convicted, and some sent to prison, for theft and false accounting due to the faulty software, Horizon.

Mr Read was paid a total bonus of £455,000 last year.

Part of that bonus included payment for his participation in the Horizon inquiry – an amount of £54,400.

In May he agreed to pay some of that back – £13,600. But he has now agreed to return the remaining £40,800.

The Post Office has not said whether other workers who received bonus payments linked to the inquiry will also return their bonus payments.

Mr Read received a bonus for the financial year 2021-2022 and part of that bonus was linked to his participation in the Horizon inquiry.

But the Post Office was rebuked by the chairman of the Horizon inquiry, Sir Wyn Williams, who questioned the awarding of the bonus before the inquiry had yet concluded.

The Horizon inquiry is investigating how hundreds of sub-postmasters became victims of a grave miscarriage of justice, and is likely to conclude in 2024.

Dozens of sub-postmasters were falsely accused of fraud, and hundreds lost their livelihoods. The inquiry also heard how many were stigmatised in their communities, and some were also incorrectly sent to prison.

One former postmaster, Harjinder Butoy, was convicted after the faulty Horizon accounting system made it appear that money had been stolen. He was wrongfully jailed for stealing £280,000 and is still awaiting compensation.

“I would like to reiterate Post Office’s sincere apology for the procedural and governance mistakes made,” Mr Read wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

Business and Trade Committee Chair Darren Jones said he was “pleased” that Mr Read had decided to return all of the bonus payments.

“However, the Post Office is still failing to recognise that the entire bonus scheme as it related to the statutory inquiry was wrong,” Mr Jones wrote in response to Mr Read’s decision on Wednesday.

“Following my repeated requests, I’m pleased that the CEO of the Post Office has decided to return all of the bonus payments he received in respect of the statutory inquiry into the Post Office-Horizon scandal,” he added.

“The Post Office’s engagement with a statutory public inquiry should never have needed bonus incentives for senior executives to do their day job, for which they are already paid.”

Mr Jones called for 100% of the bonus payments to be returned by all senior executives, and asked them “to apologise for the morally bankrupt bonus scheme having ever existed in the first place”.

Dozens of convictions against affected postmaster have now been overturned in the courts.

Mr Read added on Wednesday: “While neither the Simmons & Simmons report nor the Amanda Burton report found any basis to support suggestions of impropriety, and both stated that there was a justifiable basis to make the award, I hope this action will allow Post Office to redouble its focus on fully addressing the wrongs of the past and serving today’s postmasters”.