Government lays out how they'll clear Post Office victims under new law

Hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted, and in some cases jailed, over the Horizon scandal have been told their names will be cleared within months, but not all will be automatically cleared, ITV News's Amy Lewis reports

The government has laid out how they will clear the names of sub-postmasters wronged in the Horizon scandal.

It comes after the prime minister announced in January the government would introduce a new law to quash victims' convictions.

The ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office led to fresh scrutiny on the Post Office and the government over the scandal.

On Thursday Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake issued a statement detailing the criteria under which victims can have their convictions quashed, they include:

  • Convictions must be from the Post Office or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), but not the Department for Work and Pensions.

  • 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.

  • The convicted person will need to be either a sub-postmaster, one of their employees, officers, or family members, or a direct employee of the Post Office in order to be eligible.

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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.”

Mr Hollinrake also said the government’s legislation to exonerate sub-postmasters is likely to also clear the names of people “who were, in fact, guilty of a crime”.

This was a “price worth paying” in order quash convictions for many innocent people, he admitted.

The Post Office minister recognised that the law has been put forward in exceptional circumstances, “the government recognises the constitutional sensitivity and unprecedented nature of this legislation", he said.

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

“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.”

Watch the trailer for Mr Bates v The Post Office here:

The Post Office scandal has dominated headlines since the release of the ITV drama in January, but this week a public spat broke out between the former chairman of the Post Office and the Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

The row began after Mr Staunton gave an interview to The Sunday Times in which he said a senior civil servant had told him to delay compensation claims to sub-postmasters ahead of the election.

This led to a series of rebuttals from Ms Badenoch, Mr Staunton and the senior civil servant involved, Sarah Munby.

Ms Badenoch accused Mr Staunton of making "wild baseless accusations" in a "blatant attempt to seek revenge" after she sacked him last month, also claiming he had been under investigation for bullying at the time he was fired.

Mr Staunton then released his notes from his conversation with Ms Munby, where he says he was told to "rip off the band aid" on its finances, but Ms Munby said the funding discussed in the memo was not to do with compensation and denied all Mr Staunton's claims.

More than 700 branch managers were prosecuted by the Post Office between 1999 and 2015 after faulty Horizon accounting software made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

Hundreds of victims are still awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

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