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    Post Office scandal victims convictions to be quashed

    (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    A new law is set to be introduced today (13) to clear the names of the hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office scandal.

    The legislation is expected to clear the majority of victims in England and Wales by the end of July.

    Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the proposed Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill will help people whose lives had been “callously torn apart” and is “an important step forward in finally clearing” hundreds of sub-postmasters.

    Those wrongly convicted will get an option to settle for £600,000, without the need to bring a formal claim.

    There will also be “enhanced” financial redress for sub-postmasters who, while not convicted or part of legal action against the Post Office, made good the apparent losses caused by the Horizon system from their own pockets. They will be entitled to a fixed sum of £75,000 through the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, the government said.

    Sub-postmasters who have already settled for less money will have their compensation topped up to this level, and people can instead choose to have their claims assessed as part of the usual scheme process, in which there is no limit to compensation.

    The government said the new Horizon Convictions Redress Scheme will be open for applications “as soon as possible” for people who have had their convictions quashed. The new scheme will be run by the Department for Business and Trade.

    Hundreds of operators were wrongly prosecuted after a faulty computer system, Horizon, made it look as if money was missing. There have been more than 900 convictions linked to the scandal over 16 years, with only about 100 overturned so far.

    It is expected to come in to effect by the end of July and will apply to convictions in England and Wales. The law is expected to clear the majority of victims.

    Under the law, the government said convictions will be automatically quashed if they:

    • Were prosecuted by the Post Office or Crown Prosecution Service;
    • Were for 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.

    The Department for Business and Trade said there were 2,864 people who would be eligible for compensation and were already part of the HSS, though anyone else affected by the scandal could still come forward. The government said it aimed to open the scheme for applications as soon as possible once the legislation has been passed.

    Scotland’s Justice Secretary Angela Constance said it was “extremely disappointing” that the legislation would only apply in England and Wales. She has called for UK-wide legislation, but said the Scottish government would introduce its own if that doesn’t happen. So far six former sub-postmasters in Scotland have had their convictions quashed individually through the courts.

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