Exonerating guilty people ‘price worth paying’ to resolve Post Office scandal, government says

Exonerating guilty people 'price worth paying' to resolve Post Office scandal, government says

Overturning the convictions of guilty sub-postmasters to exonerate all those unfairly prosecuted due to the Horizon scandal is a “price worth paying”, according to the government.

The Horizon scandal has been called one of the largest miscarriages of justice in British history, after thousands were prosecuted and accused of stealing money, due to the faulty Horizon software developed by Fujitsu.

Under new legislation, the government says it will “quash all convictions which are identified as being in scope”.

The Post Office minister said that possibly exonerating people guilty of crimes is a “price worth paying” to ensure innocent people are cleared.

The aim is to get the exonerations done “as soon as possible before the summer recess” on 23 July.

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Writing to the House of Commons, Kevin Hollinrake said: “As noted in my statement on 10 January, the legislation is likely to exonerate a number of people who were, in fact, guilty of a crime.

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“The government accepts that this is a price worth paying in order to ensure that many innocent people are exonerated.”

In an attempt to ensure people are truthful in signing up for compensation linked to convictions being overturned, they will have to sign a disclaimer confirming their innocence.

“Any person found to have signed such a statement falsely in order to gain compensation may be guilty of fraud,” Mr Hollinrake added.

Mr Hollinrake has provided more details on the scheme

Which convictions will be overturned?

The statement from Mr Hollinrake also gives details on which exact convictions will be overturned.

Cases prosecuted by both the Post Office, and the Crown Prosecution Service where the case was based on evidence from the Post Office, will be quashed.

However, prosecutions from the Department for Work and Pensions will not be struck down. The government says this is because no cases prosecuted by the DWP have been overturned.

Horizon data was used to corroborate facts in these cases, rather than relied on, Mr Hollinrake said.

The exact timeframe within which cases will be overturned is not yet confirmed, nor are the exact offences which will be in scope.

Only sub-postmasters or their employees, officers or family members, or direct employees of the Post Office will have their convictions quashed.

And the person will need to have been working in a Post Office that was using the Horizon software when the offence was said to have occurred.

Read more:
New concerns raised over second IT system
Sub-postmaster ‘overwhelmed’ after conviction overturned

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What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

The legislation being introduced in Westminster will cover England and Wales.

Mr Hollinrake’s statement says that Scotland and Northern Ireland will oversee their own implementation of exoneration schemes.

However, he said the UK government will “work with them to ensure those are compatible with the UK compensation scheme – so that compensation can be paid to victims across the whole of the UK”.

The compensation payments will be paid across the UK at the same rate.

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How much compensation will they get?

Those claiming compensation after having their convictions overturned will get £163,000 within 28 days. They will then be able to choose between two paths.

One is to take a flat rate that will take their compensation up to a total of £600,000.

The other route is to have their compensation considered on an “individual basis” – for which the taxpayer will cover “reasonable legal costs”.