Horizon: Bill to exonerate sub-postmasters introduced

Horizon: Bill to exonerate sub-postmasters introduced

Sub-postmasters wrongly convicted as a result of the faulty Horizon IT system will automatically be exonerated under proposed legislation introduced at Holyrood.

Those whose convictions are quashed under the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill will then be able to access the UK government financial redress scheme.

The bill’s passage through the Scottish Parliament will be expedited. Justice Secretary Angela Constance said: “Innocent sub-postmasters had their lives ruined by being wrongly convicted of offences of dishonesty on the evidence of the faulty Post Office Horizon system.

“The scale of the scandal and the length of time that the victims have waited for justice means we are taking an unprecedented step of introducing legislation to right this terrible wrong and asking Parliament for it to be processed as an emergency bill.

“The Scottish government will not do anything to jeopardise equality and parity for victims, so the final stage of the bill cannot be considered in the Scottish Parliament until after the UK legislation has been passed. This will ensure that MSPs can take account of any amendments made to the UK bill.”

Dean of Faculty, Roddy Dunlop KC, said, however, that the Horizon scandal should have been dealt with by the courts. 

“I recognise immediately why the Scottish government is proceeding in this way. The understandable outcry over the Horizon scandal can doubtless be said to be unprecedented,” he said.

He also claimed that people who were “actually guilty will be acquitted, and be entitled to compensation”.

Mr Dunlop suggested too that a failure to respond to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission by those convicted implied “that they may have no wish to revisit matters”.

“Desperate times no doubt call for desperate measures, but in my view the solution (in terms of overturning convictions) should have been left with the courts,” he said.

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