Post Office: hundreds of convictions to be quashed in new law

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Hundreds of sub-postmasters found guilty as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal are to have their names cleared, after the law quashing their convictions was approved by Parliament.

It was one of the final bills to pass before MPs break up ahead of the general election in July.

The law applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the Scottish parliament is to pass its own bill to quash convictions.

The case is seen as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted due to faulty accountancy software called Horizon, which showed errors that did not exist.

Many sub-postmasters went to prison for false accounting and theft, and several were financially ruined.

A public inquiry into the Horizon scandal is ongoing and this week has been hearing from former Post Office boss Paula Vennells.

The passing of the Post Office Horizon System Offences Bill means all convictions will be quashed of people convicted of theft, or false accounting between 1996 and 2018 while working in a Post Office using its flawed IT system.

Those who have their convictions overturned will be eligible for compensation payments from the Horizon Convictions Redress Scheme, which will be set up after the legislation is passed.

The unprecedented law has been driven through in the wake of the public outcry brought about by the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office broadcast.

The law has been controversial with judges because for centuries it has been the job of the courts to address unsafe convictions, not Parliament.

But the government argues the exceptional scale and circumstances of the scandal mean it will not set a precedent.



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