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The scandal led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being fired, with some going bankrupt and others being imprisoned

An independent review into the Post Office Horizon IT system scandal, which led to hundreds of sub-postmasters being fired, with some going bankrupt and others being imprisoned, has been announced by the government.

Small business and postal affairs minister Paul Scully announced the draft terms of reference for the review via a written ministerial statement laid in the House of Commons yesterday.

The review will consider whether the Post Office has learned lessons from the Horizon dispute and court case, and if it has made the changes needed to ensure a similar case cannot happen again.

However, MPs from all parties called on the government to go further and launch a judge-led inquiry after Labour MP Chi Onwurah tabled an urgent question today following Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Onwurah asked what steps the government was taking to support sub-postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The Labour shadow minister said the case was possibly the “largest miscarriage of justice in our history”, with 900 prosecutions, lives lost, and innocent people bankrupted and imprisoned.

The Post Office reached a settlement of £58m in December 2019 to conclude a long-running civil court case brought against it by a group of more than 550 postmasters over issues related to its Horizon IT system. The postmasters were blamed, and in some cases criminalised, for shortfalls in accounts at their branches following the introduction of the new IT system in 1999.

Scully said today: “The Horizon dispute and court case has had a devastating impact on the lives of many postmasters, and I have been deeply moved by the individual stories of those I have spoken to.

“It is so important that a case like this can never happen again.

“That is why this government is committed to establishing an independent review to ensure that lessons have been learned, and that concrete changes have taken place at Post Office Ltd.

“We are keen to see the review launch as soon as possible, and the publication of draft terms of reference today is an important step toward this.”

He added the terms of reference and the final timings for the review were subject to confirmation by the yet-to-be-announced chairman of the review, who will be independent of the Post Office and the government.

A BBC Panorama investigation reported earlier this week that postmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office over missing money despite having evidence its own computer system could be to blame. The programme said managers at the Post Office knew problems with Horizon could make money disappear.