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Rishi Sunak Confirms New Legislation To Exonerate Post Office Victims

Rishi Sunak ahead of PMQs today (Alamy)

3 min read

Rishi Sunak has pledged to “right the wrongs of the past” by bringing forward legislation to exonerate and compensate people who were convicted as a result of the Post Office IT scandal.

Government has come under intense pressure to help victims of the Horizon IT scandal, which saw hundreds of sub-postmasters prosecuted using data from faulty software developed by Fujitsu. 

Addressing MPs ahead of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Sunak described the scandal as “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history” and insisted that victimes “must get justice and compensation”. 

“Today I can announce that we will introduce new primary legislation to make sure that those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal are swiftly exonerated and compensated,” he said.  

“We will make sure that the truth comes to light, we right the wrongs of the past, and the victims get the justice they deserve.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer described the scandal as a “huge injustice” and said he was “glad” to hear the government’s proposals.  

“People lost their lives, their liberty, and their livelihood and they’ve been waiting far too long for the truth, for justice and for compensation,” Starmer said. 

Confirming further details of the plans, minister MP Kevin Hollinrake told the Commons that people who were involved in a group litigation against the Post Office will be made an upfront offer of £75,000, but if they believe they are entitled to more, they may continue with a further assessment. 

Those who are claiming compensation after an overturned conviction will receive an offer of £600,000.

Those claiming for exoneration and compensation will have to sign a statement declaring they did not commit the crimes of which they were accused. Anybody who is later found to have been untruthful could be at risk of prosecution for fraud, Hollinrake said. 

The faulty Horizon system showed shortfalls in Post Office branch figures, for which sub-postmasters were blamed, and expected to make up the difference.

The issue has climbed to the top of the political agenda after a new ITV drama based on the scandal, Mr Bates vs the Post Office aired recently.

Earlier on Wednesday, minister Kevin Hollinrake said that an announcement was “imminent”. 

He told Sky News: “We believe we have a solution. But I said at the despatch box this week it would be this week, we felt, and I think it will be this week. But I can’t promise you any particular timescale.” 

A public inquiry is already underway on the issue, and is set to resume after a Christmas break later this week. 

Yesterday former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells said she would hand back the CBE that she was awarded in 2019, after calls for her to be stripped of the honour. 

In a statement on Tuesday, she said that she was “truly sorry for the devastation caused” by the scandal, and for staff whose “lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and prosecuted”. 

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