Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie has praised her constituent Nichola Arch after the Government announced a compensation scheme for sub-postmasters wrongly accused of theft in the Horizon scandal.
Minister Paul Scully told the House of Commons yesterday the group, known as the 555 that Nichola is part of, will be eligible for a new compensation scheme.
Nichola, who worked at the Chalford Hill Post Office branch, was awarded damages in 2019 but most of it was swallowed up in legal fees. She was one or more than 700 postmasters wrongly prosecuted due to a faulty Post Office IT system called Horizon.
Although acquitted of the charges, her reputation was destroyed and she lost her job. Since then, she has campaigned for justice.
Siobhan has lobbied ministers over the issue on Nichola’s behalf and raised the issue in the media.
Yesterday she told MPs following the announcement: “This scandal continues to shock, and I thank the campaigners and the members in this House with greyer hair than me, perhaps caused by this horrendous situation.
“I echo the calls for interim payments and more information about the practical steps to manage expectations, but it is understandable that victims, such as my constituent Nichola Arch, want to see the details.
“They are also looking to see whether things such as mixed malicious prosecution are included. For those found not guilty, can the minister provide some comfort from the dispatch box today?
In reply, the minister said: “I thank my honourable friend for the work she has done representing Nichola Arch and others.
“I saw her on GB News the other day talking with Nichola in the constituency casebook section. They both spoke excellently on this.
“I can confirm that our intention is very much to allow people who were prosecuted but not convicted full access. We have to work through that detail, but I have full confidence that we will get there.”
Nichola added: “I feel this is real progress and we are now on the right road. Although I’m concerned with time scales and what full/fair compensation will look like I’d like to say a special thank you to Siobhan Baillie for the understanding and true support she has shown in my story.
“Her input has been really profound and I am truly grateful. Paul Scully is also showing determination to see this through to the end which has to be applauded.”
Speaking afterwards Siobhan added: “I would like to pay tribute to Nichola who has bravely continued the campaign for just compensation for victims, like herself, of this awful scandal.
“She is a woman of impeccable character and I think it’s really important to say that. Lives like hers have been put on hold for too long when they were completely innocent.
“I am happy I have played a small part in getting to this point but really all the accolades should go to campaigners like Nichola. They are the heroes.”