New law quashes convictions of Scottish sub-postmasters

Post Office sign
(Image: PA)

Sub-postmasters in Scotland who were wrongly convicted as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal have been automatically exonerated.

Emergency legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament has been given Royal Assent and came into force on Friday.

It means anyone convicted of embezzlement, fraud or theft in connection with Post Office business between 1996 and 2018 have had their convictions quashed and are eligible for compensation.

A law exonerating postmasters in England and Wales was introduced in March.

The Post Office Horizon scandal saw 900 sub-postmasters in communities across the UK prosecuted for crimes of dishonesty or forced to balance their books from savings or loans because of a faulty computer system called Horizon.

It has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in the UK in recent times. A public inquiry is ongoing.

In 2020 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) – which investigates possible miscarriages of justice – wrote to 73 potential victims of the Horizon scandal in Scotland.

As of March 2024, a total of 19 people had come forward in Scotland to ask for their convictions to be reviewed.

Eight of those cases were referred to court. Seven people had already been cleared, including Caren Lorimer who had her conviction posthumously quashed this week.

In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) had sole responsibility for prosecuting Horizon cases, whereas in England the Post Office could act as prosecutor.

The Scottish government, alongside the Crown Office, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Post Office, will notify those affected and ensure police and court records are amended.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance has written an open letter to sub-postmasters setting out next steps. She said she hopes the legislation “goes some way to righting the terrible wrongs of the past”.

She said: “Of course, no amount of compensation can fully mend the lives that were torn apart by this miscarriage of justice.

“I will be writing to those affected to tell them their convictions have been quashed and ensuring court records are changed, so the victims of this scandal can have their good names restored as quickly as possible. They have already waited too long for justice.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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