Emergency Bill Introduced By Scottish Government to Overturn Convictions in Post Office Horizon Scandal

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The Scottish Government will expedite emergency legislation next week to clear subpostmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

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This follows a significant dispute between ministers in Edinburgh and London. The Scottish Government had requested that the UK Government extend its legislation to Scotland.

However, Westminster declined because justice is devolved, and prosecutions occurred under a different system. Approximately 100 Post Office workers in Scotland were mistakenly prosecuted due to discrepancies in their accounts caused by a flawed IT system.

If the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill is approved by MSPs, those with overturned convictions will be eligible for the UK Government financial redress scheme.

The Bill will be fast-tracked through the Scottish Parliament to facilitate swift justice.

The Stage 1 debate and vote on the Bill’s basic principles are slated for next Tuesday in the Scottish Parliament, with Stage 2 amendments up for discussion on Wednesday.

Yet, the final stages cannot be debated or voted on until the UK Government’s corresponding Bill progresses through Westminster.

SNP Justice Secretary Angela Constance stated: “Innocent sub-postmasters had their lives shattered by false convictions for dishonesty based on the erroneous Post Office Horizon system.

“The simplest, quickest way to rectify these wrongs would have been for the UK Government to extend their Bill to include Scottish sub-postmasters.

“Despite our persistent requests, this was denied. Our Bill thus reflects the UK’s to ensure equal treatment for affected sub-postmasters in Scotland and to facilitate access to the UK Government’s compensation scheme.

“Given the magnitude of the scandal and the prolonged wait for justice by the victims, we are taking the extraordinary measure of introducing this Bill as emergency legislation and asking Parliament to process it swiftly.

“The Scottish Government will ensure nothing compromises the equality and fairness for the victims, so the Bill’s final stage will not proceed in the Scottish Parliament until after the UK legislation is enacted.

“This will allow MSPs to consider any changes made to the UK Bill.”

The UK Government has introduced legislation that offers those wrongly convicted a £600,000 settlement option without filing a formal claim.

However, this Bill will not affect Scotland as the prosecutions related to the Horizon scandal were handled by the Crown Office.

Constance has unsuccessfully urged for the Westminster legislation to be extended to Scotland.

UK Enterprise Minister Kevin Hollinrake noted that it is more suitable for Holyrood to enact its legislation due to the separate legal system.

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