Post Office victims wronged in Horizon scandal to have names cleared under new law

Victims will have convictions quashed under new legislation (PA Archive)
Victims will have convictions quashed under new legislation (PA Archive)

Hundreds of subpostmasters wrongly convicted in the Horizon scandal will have their names cleared as part of new legislation outlined by the Government on Thursday.

Victims will have their convictions quashed under a set of “clear and objective criteria,” the Government said.

The law is expected to be introduced by July and will apply to convictions in England and Wales, the BBC reports.

In a written ministerial statement Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said there would be certain elements required in order for wrongful convictions to be exonerated.

He said these would be the type of prosecutor – for example, the Post Office or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) if such prosecutions were based on evidence provided by the Post Office.

But the Government will not include any convictions from the Department for Work and Pensions, he said.

Convictions will need to relate to alleged offences during the period that the Horizon IT system was in use and to offences which relate to the scandal – for example theft and false accounting.

The convicted person will need to have been working in a Post Office that used the software and be either a subpostmaster, one of their employees, officers, or family members, or a direct employee of the Post Office in order to be eligible.

Mr Hollinrake said: “The legislation, which will be brought forward shortly, will quash all convictions which are identified as being in scope.

“That scope will be defined by a set of clear and objective criteria which will be set out in the legislation and will not require any element of discretion or subjective analysis in order to be applied.”

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake (PA Wire)
Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake (PA Wire)

The Government’s legislation to exonerate subpostmasters is likely to also clear the names of people “who were, in fact, guilty of a crime”, he said.

He said this was a “price worth paying” in order quash convictions for many innocent people.

In terms of measures to mitigate the risk of clearing those guilty of offences, Mr Hollinrake said people will be required to sign a statement to the effect that they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted in order to receive financial redress.

If people are found to have signed the statement falsely in order to gain compensation, they “may be guilty of fraud,” he said.

He added: “The Government recognises the constitutional sensitivity and unprecedented nature of this legislation.

“The Government is clear that this legislation does not set a precedent for the future relationship between the executive, Parliament and the judiciary.

“The judiciary and the courts have dealt swiftly with the cases before them, but the scale and circumstances of this prosecutorial misconduct demands an exceptional response.

“We are keen to ensure that the legislation achieves its goal of bringing prompt justice to all of those who were wrongfully convicted as a result of the scandal, followed by rapid financial redress.”

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted due to faulty software.