UK ministers should take ‘concerted action’ over Horizon scandal – Mark Drakeford
UK ministers should be taking “concerted action” over the Horizon scandal, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The outgoing Welsh Labour leader said ministers have taken up the issue with their UK counterparts when people in Wales were affected.
He told a press conference in Cardiff: “It’s an entirely non-devolved matter but Welsh ministers have taken this up with their UK counterparts where there have been Welsh individuals who have been directly affected.
“We need to see some concerted action on the part of the UK Government to deal with the things that they can deal with already.”
Labour has called for prosecution powers to be stripped from the Post Office and previous convictions looked at again, amid growing anger over the wrongful prosecution of subpostmasters and postmistresses for alleged fraud.
It comes as MPs plan to raise the Horizon scandal in the Commons as Parliament returns this week, with Conservative backbencher David Davis and Labour MP Kevan Jones pushing for an emergency debate after an ITV drama returned the widespread miscarriage of justice to the spotlight.
Sir Keir Starmer, speaking during a visit in Loughborough, said: “I think that the prosecution should be taken out of the hands of the Post Office and given to the Crown Prosecution Service.
“I used to run the Crown Prosecution Service, we’ve prosecuted for other departments, we can do it here – that should be done straight away.
“And these convictions, the remaining convictions need to be looked at en masse.”
He added: “The Government could pass legislation, so obviously we’d support that if they did.
“It might be possible to get these cases back before the Court of Appeal quickly – I’ve done that when I was a prosecutor – but whichever way it’s done, these convictions need to be looked at.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended the UK Government’s response to the scandal but said he wanted to speed up the compensation process.
At a PM Connect event in Lancashire he said those caught up in it had faced an “absolutely appalling miscarriage of justice” and “we should do everything we can to make it right”.
“I would say that over the last few years my predecessors started the process of doing that, had theinquiry. Actually, as chancellor, I approved the compensation schemes for the first time which are now in the process of being paid out and almost £150 million has been paid out to thousands of people.
“So people should know that we are on it and we want to make this right, that money has been set aside.
“What we are now looking at is how can we speed all of that up?”
He confirmed Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and the Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake were meeting to see if there is “more we can do to speed up some of those processes”.
“We will do everything we can to make this right for the people affected. It is simply wrong what happened, they shouldn’t have been treated like this.”
Reports suggest since Mr Bates Vs The Post Office was broadcast, 50 new potential victims have approached lawyers.
The Post Office is wholly owned by the UK Government and a public inquiry into Horizon is ongoing.
Scotland Yard said on Friday that officers are “investigating potential fraud offences arising out of these prosecutions”, for example “monies recovered from subpostmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions”.
The Metropolitan Police had already been looking into potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice in relation to investigations and prosecutions carried out by the Post Office.
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