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New Legislation to Pardon Wrongly Accused in Post Office Scandal

The government is set to introduce a law that's expected to exonerate numerous individuals wrongfully convicted during the Post Office scandal, with most victims anticipated to have their convictions nullified by July's end.
This applies to cases in England and Wales involving specific offenses, such as theft and false accounting, where faulty Horizon software by Fujitsu led to erroneous prosecutions of over 900 sub-postmasters between 1999 and 2015.

The wrongful convictions resulted in prison sentences, financial ruin, and even suicides among accused postmasters. To date, 102 have had their convictions overturned. Under the new legislation, all qualifying convictions by the Post Office and CPS will be reviewed, but not those by other agencies like the DWP.

The announcement has been met with relief from victims, including 75-year-old Keith Bell, wrongly convicted in 2002, who now expects to clear his name. There has been criticism about the slow compensation and exoneration process, with various complex schemes in place.

While acknowledging the potential pardon of a few who might be guilty, Post Office Minister Kevin Hollinrake emphasized the importance of correcting the immense judicial misconduct.

The legislation will aim for swift justice and compensation, although it will not encompass DWP-related prosecutions. The department clarified that Horizon's evidence was not central to unrelated welfare fraud cases previously prosecuted.

Labour MP Kevan Jones welcomed the move but stressed the need for prompt passage of the law. The government also assured that efforts would be made to harmonize conviction overturning efforts with Scottish and Northern Irish authorities.

Hollinrake mentioned that this exceptional legislation is not intended to set a future precedent for government, parliamentary, and judicial relationships.

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