Legal Clearance Anticipated for Victims of Post Office Scandal


The UK government is planning new legislation to clear the names of hundreds of people wrongly convicted in the Post Office scandal. The law, expected to be in effect by the end of July, will apply to specific convictions in England and Wales. The scandal saw over 900 sub-postmasters prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 due to faulty software. The Horizon system, developed by Japanese firm Fujitsu, provided incorrect information leading to false accusations of theft and false accounting against sub-postmasters. Many were imprisoned and financially ruined, with some even taking their own lives. So far, 102 convictions have been overturned.

Keith Bell, a sub-postmaster in Stockton-on-Tees since 1985, was one of those affected. He was convicted of false accounting in 2002 after noticing discrepancies in his accounts following the installation of Horizon. Despite spending over £12,000 of his own money to cover shortfalls and receiving little support from Post Office helplines, Bell was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. Now 75, he is hopeful that his conviction will be quashed.

The issue was brought back into public consciousness by an ITV drama earlier this year. Critics have said that the process for overturning convictions and obtaining compensation has been too slow and complex. Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake announced the new legislation, acknowledging that it may exonerate some who were actually guilty but stating that this was a price worth paying to clear the names of many innocent people.

The new law will apply to convictions from the Post Office and Crown Prosecution Service for relevant offences committed by sub-postmasters, their employees or family members during the time Horizon was in operation. However, it will not apply to prosecutions by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The government also plans to work with the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Executive to ensure their schemes are compatible with the UK compensation scheme.

Labour MP Kevan Jones welcomed the news but stressed the importance of passing the new law as quickly as possible. Hollinrake acknowledged the “constitutional sensitivity” of the legislation but insisted it was necessary due to the scale and circumstances of the prosecutorial misconduct. He emphasized the goal of bringing prompt justice and rapid financial redress to those wrongfully convicted.

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