The Scottish Government is looking at a possible “pardon scheme” for subpostmasters and mistresses caught up in the Post Office's Horizon IT scandal. 

However, Justice Secretary Angela Constance told MSPs that Scottish victims of what is one of the UK's biggest miscarriages of justice would be eligible for compensation if they have their conviction reversed by an appeal court

The Post Office, which is effectively owned by the government, has set aside £244m to compensate victims of the scandal.

Responding to a topical question in Holyrood, the minister said she had written to Alex Chalk, the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Justice, to ask for a meeting to “discuss how best we can work together and ensure that anyone wrongly convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal can have their conviction reversed and still be entitled to compensation.”

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The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) believe there could be as many as 100 Horizon cases in Scotland.

The affair is in the spotlight following the broadcast of Mr Bates Vs the Post Office, an ITV dramatisation of the scandal.

Over the last three years, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, the official body tasked with probing potential miscarriages of justice, has written to anyone it thinks might impacted by the scandal. 

So far, only 16 people in Scotland have come forward to have a conviction looked at.

Of those, just two have had convictions overturned. Another four are currently appealing their convictions to the High Court of Justiciary Appeal Court, with decisions expected next month.

In Scotland, the Post Office is designated a specialist reporting agency which meant they were able to make reports of criminality directly to prosecutors. 

Faulty centralised accounting software designed by Fujitsu and installed in the late 1990s made it look as if owner-operators in charge of sub-post offices had stolen money.

Despite knowing there were faults in the centralised accounting software, the Post Office relentlessly pursued many of those they caught up in the scandal.

However, last year, the COPFS said the Post Office had not made them aware of the “Horizon issues” now known to have existed “during the period of interest.”

About 700 people were wrongly prosecuted across the UK. Many of the victims died before they could clear their names. The scandal has also been linked to four suicides.

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Answering a topical question in Holyrood, Ms Constance told MSPs it was “imperative that this parliament we stand up for everyone in Scotland who has been affected by the Horizon scandal.”

She said the government had “an open mind” on how best to proceed.

Conservative MSP Russell Findlay questioned why First Minister Yousaf “didn't hold a single meeting about the Post Office Horizon scandal” during his time as justice secretary between 2018 and 2021.

He raised the case of former police officer Mary Philp who ran the Post Office in Auchtermuchty and was wrongly accused of theft.

“Her daughter Myra, who has campaigned doggedly for years, wants to know when all Scottish victims will have their convictions quashed and names cleared,” Mr Finlay asked, telling the minister that she had the power to do so.

Ms Constance said she would “work collaboratively with everyone to ensure that everyone affected in Scotland can access justice.”

She said it was “unfortunate that Mr Findlay has sought to overly politicise this matter when this problem has been in the making since 1999, by the post office, a UK-wide body scrutinised under reserved powers by successive UK Government ministers.”

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Meanwhile, former Post Office boss Paula Vennells is to hand back her CBE following the fallout, from the Horizon IT scandal which led to the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of subpostmasters.

The ex-chief executive was awarded her CBE in 2018 for "services to the Post Office."

During her time in charge, she routinely denied there was a problem with its Horizon IT system.

In a statement, Ms Vennells said: “I continue to support and focus on co-operating with the Inquiry and expect to be giving evidence in the coming months.

“I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the Inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

“I am, however, aware of the calls from subpostmasters and others to return my CBE.

“I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect.

“I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.

“I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the Inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded.”