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    Legislation to quash Horizon convictions extended to Northern Ireland

    REUTERS/Hollie Adams

    The government has on Monday tabled amendments to expand the territorial extent of the Post Office Offences Bill, bringing convictions resulting from the Post Office Horizon scandal in Northern Ireland in its scope.

    This blanket exoneration will automatically quash convictions brought about by the scandal, including 26 in Northern Ireland.

    “We always carefully consider the territorial extent of each piece of legislation and are rigorous in our commitment to devolution. However, it has become apparent that the Northern Ireland Executive does not have the ability to rapidly address the 26 convictions known to be within its purview,” Kevin Hollinrake, postal affairs minister, said.

    “It has become clear that postmasters in Northern Ireland could have their convictions quashed significantly later than those who were convicted in England and Wales, which would be unacceptable.”

    As in England and Wales, convictions in Northern Ireland will need to meet a set of criteria before they are quashed, including:

    • Prosecutions brought about by the state prosecutor or the police.
    • Offences carried out in connection with Post Office business between 1996 and 2018.
    • Were for relevant offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.
    • Were against sub-postmasters, their employees, officers, family members or direct employees of the Post Office working in a Post Office that used the Horizon system software.

    Hollinrake added that the landmark legislation – which is making its way through parliament – will speed up the financial redress process, where the government is offering a £600,000 fixed sum which can be administered quickly for those who accept it.

    That is alongside plans to enhance the financial redress for postmasters who were not convicted, or part of legal action against the Post Office, but who still suffered considerably due to Horizon failures. These individuals, also known as the Horizon Shortfall Scheme cohort, will have the option to receive a fixed sum payment of £75,000.

    The Scottish government has already indicated that they are bringing forward legislation to overturn all convictions relating to the Horizon scandal.

    Regardless of the UK jurisdiction in which convictions are quashed, claimants will be entitled to financial redress which will be delivered on a UK-wide basis by the Department for Business and Trade.

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