Horizon scandal: Post Office 'deceitful' if it withheld information, says Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf

Scotland's first minister has told Sky News the Post Office was "deceitful" if it withheld information about the dodgy Horizon system that led to sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses being criminalised.

Unlike in England and Wales, the Crown Office was responsible for taking cases to court in Scotland based on information fed to it by Post Office officials.

On Tuesday, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC apologised to victims and told Holyrood that prosecutors were "repeatedly misled" by the Post Office.

To date, four convictions have been overturned in Scotland.

Questioned on Wednesday by Sky News, Humza Yousaf said: "It's clearly deceitful if they've been misleading the prosecution service of the country.

"These are very serious charges for the Post Office to answer."

In response, the Post Office said it shares the aims of the public inquiry to "get to the truth of what happened in the past and accountability".

The spokesperson added: "It's for the inquiry to reach its own independent conclusions after consideration of all the evidence on the issues it is examining."

The first minister said the mass exoneration of victims as part of a UK-wide system is "the correct way forward", despite concerns not all cases will be miscarriages of justice.

Mr Yousaf said: "It is the correct way forward as we know many people have waited far too long.

"We have to work through the complexities of what might be very solid, sound convictions but ensure those who were wrongly convicted get the justice they deserve."

The SNP leader said he "certainty hoped" the innocent victims of the scandal would have their names cleared by the end of this year.

He and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have vowed to work together on the plan.

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Scottish prosecutors were first made aware of issues with the system in May 2013, but the Post Office said an external law firm had reviewed all potentially impacted cases and concluded there were no concerns about accuracy of evidence in Scotland as well as an independent report which found no issues with Horizon.

In August of that year, the Crown Office told prosecutors to "carefully consider" cases where Horizon was a factor, while the following month the Post Office agreed to seek expert advice and a further report to support Horizon's robustness - which they "failed to deliver" on time, according to the lord advocate.

But it was not until October 2015 when the Crown Office told its prosecutors to "assess all Post Office cases" with orders issued to "discontinue or take no action in cases which relied on evidence from the Horizon system to prove a crime had been committed".

The Post Office said it was working with Scottish authorities to deal with the issues.

A spokesperson said: "We are doing all we can to right the wrongs of the past, including extensive work to support overturning wrongful convictions and payment of over £138m of compensation for those and others affected.

"This work includes assisting the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service, as we continue to support efforts to speed up the exoneration of people with wrongful convictions and pay full and fair compensation swiftly."

On Wednesday, Britain's most senior police officer - Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley - said it will be at least two years until any criminal charges are brought over the scandal.