Post Office victims set to be cleared by end of the year, Rishi Sunak says

The Prime Minister says that victims of “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice” will see legislation that will clear their names, with legislation to overturn Horizon Post Office convictions set to be quashed by the end of the year.

Yesterday MPs were told that blanket legislation will be introduced within weeks to exonerate those falsely convicted of taking money from the Post Office due to the faulty Horizon IT system.

The scandal, which has seen fewer than 100 of almost 1,000 convictions overturned, has been thrust back into the spotlight after an ITV drama depicting it was aired earlier this month.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Kevin Hollinrake, the Post Office minister and North Yorkshire MP, said that the Post Office showed “not only incompetence but malevolence” in the way it acted against hundreds of staff.

Rishi Sunak speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.Rishi Sunak speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.
Rishi Sunak speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Ministers have decided to introduce new legislation rather than requiring individuals to separately challenge their convictions.

Mr Hollinrake yesterday acknowledged that the plan could result in some subpostmasters who did commit crimes being wrongly cleared.

As a safeguard, those involved will sign a statement saying they did not commit the crime of which they were accused, with anyone subsequently found to have signed that untruthfully putting themselves at risk of prosecution for fraud.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Downing Street said the “ambition” was for the plan to be implemented by the end of the year.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Sunak said: “This is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history.

People who worked hard to serve their communities had their lives and their reputations destroyed through absolutely no fault of their own. The victims must get justice and compensation.”

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk has been discussing the situation with senior judges because of the constitutional concern about Parliament being seen to interfere with the legal system.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Horizon software started to be rolled out in Post Office branches across the UK in 1999 and over the subsequent years a series of subpostmasters were prosecuted over missing funds.

Alan Bates, the campaigning former subpostmaster the series centred on, welcomed the “good news” but said the fight is not over for many of those still awaiting compensation.

During a debate in the House of Commons, Mr Hollinrake also vowed to find out how much money was “stolen” from the wrongly-accused staff by the Post Office, though it is thought to stretch into the hundreds of millions.

Ministers have meanwhile set aside up to £1 billion in compensation for victims.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Hollinrake said: “The money was taken, somebody must have noticed that money – you’d think the finance department would have noticed that money, you’d think auditors would have noticed that money.”