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Scottish Horizon Bill to quash wrongful convictions set to come into force

The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Act comes into force on Friday (PA)
The Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Act comes into force on Friday (PA)

A law which will automatically exonerate Scots wrongly convicted as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal will come into force on Friday.

The Scottish Government announced the legislation, passed by Holyrood just two weeks ago, received royal assent on Thursday.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said she hopes the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Act will go “some way to righting the terrible wrongs of the past”.

Working with the Crown Office, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Post Office, the Scottish Government will notify those affected and ensure police and court records are amended.

Ms Constance will also write to those whose convictions will be quashed, setting out the next steps, and they should also be eligible for compensation as part of a UK-wide scheme.

A man and woman walking past a large Post Office sign on a glass window
Subpostmasters across the UK were wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal (PA)

The UK Parliament has already passed its own legislation to clear the convictions of subpostmasters involved in the Horizon scandal – which has been branded the “greatest miscarriage of justice” in the legal system.

That covered England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the UK Government refused repeated requests from SNP ministers to extend its Bill to Scotland, citing the separate legal system north of the border.

As a result the Scottish Government brought in its own emergency legislation, which was unanimously passed by MSPs.

Ms Constance said: “This legislation automatically exonerates subpostmasters who were convicted of crimes of dishonesty that they did not commit due to the Post Office’s faulty Horizon IT system, meaning they are eligible to access the redress scheme.

“Of course, no amount of compensation can fully mend the lives that were torn apart by this miscarriage of justice. I do hope, however, that this legislation goes some way to righting the terrible wrongs of the past.

“I will be writing to those affected to tell them their convictions have been quashed and ensuring court records are changed, so the victims of this scandal can have their good names restored as quickly as possible. They have already waited too long for justice.”