Post Office Horizon scandal: Crown office said Scottish prosecutors told faulty Horizon system would not impact cases, amid Rishi Sunak 'greatest miscarriage' claim

The Crown Office issued a statement in relation to Scottish cases involved in the Horizon Post Office scandal as Rishi Sunak described it as ‘one of the great miscarriages of justice’

A new law is to be introduced to exonerate hundreds of Post Office branch managers caught up in the Horizon IT scandal.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said they were victims of “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history”.

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It comes as the Crown Office said Scottish prosecutors were told by the Post Office the faulty Horizon system would not impact on its cases.

Toby Jones and co-stars in Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Picture: ITVToby Jones and co-stars in Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Picture: ITV
Toby Jones and co-stars in Mr Bates vs the Post Office. Picture: ITV

Hundreds of sub-postmasters were convicted of swindling money on the basis of evidence from a flawed IT system. The Prime Minister told MPs: “We will introduce new primary legislation to ensure that those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal are swiftly exonerated and compensated.”

Mr Sunak also announced a new upfront payment of £75,000 for the “vital” group of postmasters who took action against the Post Office.

At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, he said: “This is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history. People who worked hard to serve their communities had their lives and their reputations destroyed through absolutely no fault of their own. The victims must get justice and compensation.”

Mr Sunak said “we will make sure the truth comes to light” and “right the wrongs of the past”.

Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake told MPs that 95 out of more than 900 convictions have been overturned.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) meanwhile said it had been made aware of issues with the Fujitsu-made system, which resulted in almost 1,000 sub-postmasters being convicted of crimes including theft and embezzlement, in 2013. But a spokesperson for the prosecutors said the Post Office claimed the system would have no impact on legal cases.

Asked if the Crown Office chose not to look again at the convictions in Scotland relating to Horizon because of assurances from the Post Office and if it felt it had been misled, the service said on Wednesday that it could not provide a response. The ongoing public inquiry into the scandal and appeals against convictions may hamper what the COPFS can make public.

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The spokesperson said: “Retained records demonstrate that COPFS were first made aware of potential problems with the Horizon computer system in May 2013. However, we were told by the Post Office at that time that these potential problems did not impact on any of our cases.”

The COPFS said it estimates up to 100 people were convicted in Scotland as a result of Horizon.

On Tuesday, Scottish justice secretary Angela Constance told MSPs the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission – the body tasked with assessing possible miscarriages of justice – has sent seven cases to the appeal court, two of which have resulted in overturned convictions.

Deputy Crown agent Kenny Donnelly said: “We are working with the Post Office to ensure that case material is recovered as efficiently as possible to ensure that appeals currently before the court can be expedited and all potential future appellants can be identified and their cases reviewed.

“COPFS estimates up to 100 Scottish cases may be affected. This is lower than in England and Wales due to COPFS policy decisions made in response to awareness of the Horizon system issues, and the fact that all cases in Scotland were prosecuted by the procurator fiscal under the application of Scots criminal law.”

A spokesperson for the Post Office said: “It for the independent inquiry to reach its own independent conclusions after consideration of all the evidence on the complex issues it is examining.”

Ms Constance said she will be discussing the Scottish Government’s contracts with Fujitsu with other ministers in the wake of the Horizon scandal. She said there are contracts the Government keeps “under review” to ensure they are ethical, comply with fair work principles and provide value for money.

In an interview on BBC Radio Scotland’s BBC Good Morning Scotland programme on Wednesday, Ms Constance was asked: “Will you or should you be reviewing Fujitsu’s contracts?” She replied: “That wouldn’t necessarily be a matter for me as justice secretary, that may be a matter for the Government as a whole and for other ministers, but I shall certainly discuss that with other ministers.”

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Meanwhile, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats backed his UK leader after pressure was put on him to quit or give back his knighthood. Sir Ed Davey served as postal affairs minister while in coalition government between 2010 and 2012 and has been accused of having “fobbed off” sub-postmasters impacted by the Horizon scandal.

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said Sir Ed should not stand down despite increasing pressure from politicians and some who were impacted.

“No, I don’t think he should,” Mr Cole-Hamilton said after being asked if Sir Ed should quit, citing comments from Alan Bates, the “heroic” sub-postmaster whose story was dramatised in an ITV series that thrust the story back to the political fore.

“[Mr Bates] said on Channel 4 News, he was asked about Ed Davey’s position and he said it was wrong to criticise Ed Davey because he was given a bum steer by officials.” Sir Ed said this week he believed he had been lied to by the Post Office.

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: “You have to ask why is Ed being attacked? Well, he’s being attacked by the Tories because they’re worried about the advances he’s making in the blue wall.” He was alluding to the “historic” by-election wins in recent years in four Westminster constituencies.

The SNP has called on Sir Ed to relinquish his knighthood, following the example of former Post Office boss Paula Vennells who announced this week she would give back her CBE after a petition received more than one million signatures.

Speaking to the Daily Record, SNP MP Amy Callaghan said: “It would be entirely inappropriate for Ed Davey to retain his knighthood given the questions surrounding his role in this appalling miscarriage of justice and subsequent cover-up. He should follow in the footsteps of Paula Vennells and hand back his honour immediately.

“Countless lives were destroyed by this scandal, and many more are still dealing with the consequences of wrongful convictions and having to hand over money they didn’t have after being wrongfully accused of stealing.”

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Ms Callaghan said the scandal was not the fault of any single party, but the “entire Westminster system” had been complicit and those involved should “take responsibility for their actions and work to resolve the issue.



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