Legislation to quash convictions arising from the Post Office Horizon scandal ‘does not set a precedent for the future relationship between the executive, parliament and the judiciary’, the government has said.

Enterprise, markets and small business minister Kevin Hollinrake told parliament yesterday that the ‘unprecedented intervention’ planned by the government aimed to ‘deliver long overdue justice’.

The legislation will quash all convictions defined ‘by a set of clear and objective criteria’ to be set out in the legislation which ‘will not require any element of discretion or subjective analysis to be applied’.

The criteria will include: a set timeframe to cover the period the Horizon system and its pilots were in operation; the offence type; the convicted person will need to have been working in a Post Office that was using the Horizon software at the time of the offence; charges brought by both the Post Office and the Crown Prosecution Service. Convictions from the Department for Work and Pensions will not be included as none has been quashed.

Kevin Hollinrake

Hollinrake: Proposed legislation likely to exonerate some who were guilty - but 'is a price worth paying'

Source: Parliament.co.uk

In a written ministerial statement, Hollinrake said: ‘The government recognises the constitutional sensitivity and unprecedented nature of this legislation. The government is clear that this legislation does not set a precedent for the future relationship between the executive, parliament and the judiciary.

‘The judiciary and the courts have dealt swiftly with the cases before them, but the scale and circumstances of this prosecutorial misconduct demands an exceptional response.’

He added: ‘The legislation is likely to exonerate a number of people who were, in fact, guilty of a crime. The government accepts that this is a price worth paying in order to ensure that many innocent people are exonerated.’

To lessen the risk of those who were rightly convicted of receiving financial compensation, individuals will be required to sign a statement stating they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted. Hollinrake said: ‘Any person found to have signed such a statement falsely in order to gain compensation may be guilty of fraud.’

The government aims to achieve Royal Assent for the legislation before the summer recess.


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