Post Office Horizon cases: letters to UK Government

Letters to UK Government about the Post Office Horizon IT scandal and proposed legislation to reverse the convictions of those affected.

May 2024

Letter dates:

  • 14 May 2024
  • 23 May 2024

Letter: 14 May 2024

To: Kevin Hollinrake, Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs

Following the UK Government’s decision to exclude Scotland from the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill, the Scottish Government has introduced the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill in the Scottish Parliament on 14 May 2024. The Bill and its accompanying documents can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.

As I have highlighted in prior correspondence, in order for any Scottish Parliament legislation to be appropriately compatible with the legislation being progressed by the UK Government, a Scottish Bill will not be passed at Stage 3 until the UK Bill receives final approval in Westminster.  

This of course means that those sub-postmasters in Scotland who have suffered wrongful convictions may require to wait longer for their convictions to be quashed and be given access to the UK Government’s compensation scheme. We are keen to ensure we do everything within our power to minimise any further delays. With this in mind, Stage 1 and Stage 2 of our Bill are scheduled to be held on 21 and 22 May 2024, respectively.

While the aim is to closely follow the approach of the UK Government, there will inevitably be some variation in the criteria adopted in the Scottish Bill to reflect the difference in the offences which were prosecuted in Scotland using tainted evidence. It is also possible that the Scottish Parliament might opt to adjust the criteria from a policy perspective (for example, based on what is known about the prosecutions or appeals which proceeded in Scotland).

I am therefore writing at this time to seek confirmation that the UK Government will uphold its public commitment to provide identical access to the compensation schemes, irrespective of the mechanisms by which convictions are overturned.  In particular I seek assurance that any deviation in the Scottish legislative approach, such as a different approach to cases decided on appeal, would not disadvantage Scottish claimants.

In our meeting on the 28 March, you committed to direct POL to provide information to Scottish Ministers in a timeous and transparent manner. This is now more important than ever, given that the implementation of our legislation will require us to identify cases that meet the criteria of the Bill. Any delays by POL to interrogate its systems and share relevant material with Scottish Ministers will further impede our efforts to hasten the process of notifying persons whose convictions have been quashed

Furthermore, the Scottish Government will be seeking to shorten the timeframe for receiving Royal Assent by writing to request the Law Officers and the Secretary of State to confirm to the Presiding Officer that they do not intend to refer the Bill to the Court or to intervene under s35, as the case may be.

I hope that our governments can work together to ensure that the suffering of those who have endured miscarriages of justice is not prolonged any further, and I look forward to your assurances on these points.

Letter: 23 May 2024

To: Kevin Hollinrake, Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small
From: Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs

Following the announcement yesterday about the UK General Elections to be held on 4 July, I am writing to you to urgently seek assurances that the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill will be passed before the parliament is dissolved on 30 May.

As you know, the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Bill can only be passed after the UK bill has completed its passage. This ensures that we can know the final form of UK Bill and whether there are any amendments to it that we would want to reflect in the Scottish Bill.

Sub-postmasters all across UK have already waited far too long to access justice and I hope you share my commitment to overturn this historical miscarriage of justice.

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