Scottish and UK leaders to cooperate on mass exonerations for Horizon victims

Ministers in Holyrood are planning to work with colleagues in Westminster to ensure that new legislation enables subpostmasters north of the border to get the same justice as English counterparts

The UK Government will work with Scottish ministers to ensure the mass exoneration of those wrongly convicted as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Scottish Government first minister Humza Yousaf has previously written to UK counterparts asking for legislation at Westminster to apply to Scotland. He confirmed during a recent appearance in the Scottish Parliament that Rishi Sunak had agreed to work with him on the matter.

Yousaf was facing questions from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross about victims of the Horizon scandal.

While Ross suggested the issue should be dealt with in Scotland due to prosecutions being taken forward by the devolved Crown Office, Yousaf insisted that proceeding on a UK-wide basis was the “preferable route”.

The exchange followed an earlier statement from Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, who heads up the Crown Office.

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Bain seemed to suggest she was not in favour of mass exoneration, as “not every Horizon case will involve a miscarriage of justice”.

Ross argued it would be “better to accept the tiny possibility that a guilty person will have a conviction overturned than allowing dozens of innocent subpostmasters to live with the stain of guilt for a minute longer”.

He added it would take “far too long” for victims to have their convictions quashed through the existing appeals process. Only seven cases in Scotland have been referred to the High Court for consideration, four of which have been overturned.

Yousaf defended the actions of the Crown Office, saying prosecutors were “misled by the UK Post Office time and time again” and accused the UK government of failing to “interrogate” the Post Office enough.

He reiterated the Scottish Government’s support for mass exoneration using UK-wide legislation which would then be approved by the Scottish Parliament through a legislative consent motion.

Yousaf added that “nobody wants to see” people whose convictions are sound able to have them overturned and therefore have access to compensation.

Ross also called for former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland to come before parliament to answer questions from MSPs.

The letter from the prime minister confirmed that the two governments could work together and said ministers were set to introduce legislation “over the coming weeks”.

Sunak added: “As justice is a devolve matter and prosecutions were taken forward by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland… the UK government is committed to working with devolved administrations to ensure that all subpostmasters, irrespective of location, receive the exoneration they deserve.”

This story originally appeared on PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood

Louise Wilson

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