Scottish Government
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Justice for Post Office Horizon victims

Bill to exonerate wrongly convicted sub-postmasters.

Sub-postmasters wrongly convicted as a result of the faulty Horizon IT system will automatically be exonerated under proposed legislation introduced to the Scottish Parliament today.

Those whose convictions are quashed under the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill will then be able to access the UK Government financial redress scheme.

The Bill’s passage through the Scottish Parliament will be expedited to allow justice and redress to be delivered to victims as swiftly as possible in line with the UK Bill, which was not extended to cover sub-postmasters in Scotland.

Justice Secretary Angela Constance said:

“Innocent sub-postmasters had their lives ruined by being wrongly convicted of offences of dishonesty on the evidence of the faulty Post Office Horizon system. The quickest, easiest route to overturn these miscarriages of justice would have been for the UK Government to extend their Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill to cover sub-postmasters in Scotland. However, our repeated requests for this were refused. Our Bill, therefore, mirrors that of UK legislation to ensure parity for affected sub-postmasters in Scotland with those elsewhere in the UK and to ensure access to the UK Government’s compensation scheme.

“The scale of the scandal and the length of time that the victims have waited for justice means we are taking an unprecedented step of introducing legislation to right this terrible wrong and asking Parliament for it to be processed as an emergency Bill. The Scottish Government will not do anything to jeopardise equality and parity for victims, so the final stage of the Bill cannot be considered in the Scottish Parliament until after the UK legislation has been passed. This will ensure that MSPs can take account of any amendments made to the UK Bill.”


If passed, the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill will mean relevant convictions are automatically quashed on the day the legislation comes into force and those exonerated will then be able to access the UK Government financial redress scheme, in line with its requirements.

The legislation will exonerate convicted sub-postmasters where the following criteria are met:

  • the conviction was for embezzlement, fraud, theft, uttering or an ancillary offence committed between 23 September 1996 and 31 December 2018
  • the person was carrying on a Post Office business, or working in a Post Office for the purpose of a Post Office business
  • the conviction was in connection with carrying on, or working for the purpose of the Post Office business
  • the Horizon system was being used for the purposes of the Post Office business in the relevant Post Office
  • the conviction has not been considered by the High Court in connection with an appeal.

Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill

Once a Scottish Government Bill is introduced, responsibility for the scrutiny process, including timescales, rests with the Parliament. The Stage 1 debate and vote on the general principles of the Bill is expected to take place in the Scottish Parliament on 21 May; Stage 2 amendments will be considered on 22 May.


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