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Government takes action to rectify Horizon scandal injustices before summer

ADDRESSING one of the most significant miscarriages of justice in British history, the UK government has committed to overturning the convictions of sub-postmasters wrongfully prosecuted due to the Horizon scandal. The faulty Horizon software, developed by Fujitsu, led to accusations of embezzlement against thousands, many fo whom were Welsh.

The government, emphasising the gravity of the Horizon scandal, has introduced new legislation to quash convictions falling within its scope. The Post Office minister asserts that the potential exoneration of individuals previously found guilty is a “price worth paying” to restore justice for those wrongly accused.

With a determined timeline, the government says aims to complete the exoneration process before the summer recess on 23 July. In a letter to the House of Commons, Kevin Hollinrake acknowledged that the legislation might result in the exoneration of some individuals who were, in fact, guilty of a crime. However, he maintains that this trade-off is justified to rectify injustices suffered by numerous innocent people.

To uphold the integrity of the compensation process tied to overturned convictions, the government plans to implement measures for verifying the truthfulness of individuals seeking compensation. Those seeking redress will be required to sign a disclaimer confirming their innocence, with warnings that fraudulent attempts to gain compensation may lead to charges of fraud.

Mr. Hollinrake’s statement also outlined the specific convictions slated for overturning. Cases prosecuted by both the Post Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, relying on evidence from the Post Office, will be quashed. Convictions resulting from prosecutions by the Department for Work and Pensions will not be overturned, as no such cases have been successfully appealed. Mr. Hollinrake clarified that Horizon data was used to corroborate facts in these cases rather than being the sole basis for prosecution.

While the exact timeframe for overturning convictions and the specific offences within the legislation’s scope remain uncertain, certain criteria have been established. Only convictions of sub-postmasters or their employees, officers, family members, or direct Post Office employees will be considered for quashing. Additionally, the individual must have been working in a Post Office utilising the Horizon software at the time of the alleged offence.

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