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Post Office Offences Bill to be extended to Northern Ireland

  • Legislation introduced to automatically quash convictions relating to the Horizon scandal to be extended to Northern Ireland.
  • Affected postmasters across the UK will have the option of accepting a fixed sum offer of £600,000 after their conviction is quashed.
  • Comes as £190 million paid to over 2,800 victims so far.

The Government has today [Monday 22 April] tabled amendments to expand the territorial extent of the Post Office Offences Bill. Convictions resulting from the Post Office Horizon scandal in Northern Ireland will now be within scope.

This blanket exoneration will automatically quash convictions brought about by the scandal, including 26 in Northern Ireland, clearing the names of many people who have had their lives ruined.

As in England and Wales, convictions in Northern Ireland will need to meet a set of criteria before they are quashed, including:

  • Prosecutions brought about by the state prosecutor or the police.
  • Offences carried out in connection with Post Office business between 1996 and 2018.
  • Were for relevant offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.
  • Were against sub-postmasters, their employees, officers, family members or direct employees of the Post Office working in a Post Office that used the Horizon system software.

Postal Affairs Minister Kevin Hollinrake said:

We always carefully consider the territorial extent of each piece of legislation and are rigorous in our commitment to devolution. However, it has become apparent that the Northern Ireland Executive does not have the ability to rapidly address the 26 convictions known to be within its purview.

It has become clear that postmasters in Northern Ireland could have their convictions quashed significantly later than those who were convicted in England and Wales, which would be unacceptable.

This follows the decision to introduce landmark legislation – which is making its way through parliament – to quash the convictions of hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters wrongly convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal. This will speed up the financial redress process – where we are offering a £600,000 fixed sum which can be administered quickly for those who accept it.

Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, said:

I am pleased that the Post Office Horizon legislation will be amended to include Northern Ireland. I’ve been speaking to Minister Hollinrake, the Northern Ireland First Minister, Deputy First Minister and Justice Minister about this important issue regularly.

It’s clear that, in the context of a recently restored Executive and Assembly, adding Northern Ireland to this Bill is the best way to deliver justice for the victims as quickly as possible.

That is alongside plans to enhance the financial redress for postmasters who were not convicted, or part of legal action against the Post Office, but who still suffered considerably due to Horizon failures. These individuals, also known as the Horizon Shortfall Scheme cohort, will have the option to receive a fixed sum payment of £75,000.

Scotland has an historically separate legal jurisdiction to England and Wales, and the Lord Advocate and Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service had a unique role in respect of prosecutions in Scotland. Additionally, the Scottish Government do not have the same kind of obligations to consult on new legislation as in Northern Ireland or challenges resulting from the NI Assembly not sitting for nearly two years.

The Scottish Government has already indicated that they are bringing forward legislation and the UK Government will continue to support them in developing their proposals to overturn all convictions relating to the Horizon scandal.

Regardless of the UK jurisdiction in which convictions are quashed, claimants will be entitled to financial redress which will be delivered on a UK-wide basis by the Department for Business and Trade.

Notes to Editors

  • The Post Office Offences Bill continues its passage through Parliament, with Committee in the House of Commons scheduled for Monday 29 April. It is expected to receive Royal Assent as soon as possible before Summer recess, when all convictions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will automatically be quashed.
  • In total, the Government has paid out £190 million to over 2,800 Post Office victims.
  • This includes:

  • £39 million paid out to members of the GLO scheme.
  • £111 million offered to those in the HSS scheme.
  • £41 million paid out to those in the Overturned Convictions scheme, with 103 convictions now overturned.

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