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Scotland’s top legal officer bows to pressure to tell MSPs if she backs postmasters law



He said: “The Lord Advocate is fully supportive of her accountability to Parliament and is willing to make another statement.

“When she appeared in January, the Lord Advocate said the Crown is continuing to use the existing mechanisms to address miscarriages of justice in Scotland.”

However, he insisted that she had not commented on whether the convictions should be quashed and said she hoped to make the parliamentary statement as soon as possible.

Separate legal system

Unlike south of the border, where the Post Office has the power to bring its own prosecutions, the Crown Office brought all the cases against Scottish postmasters. Holyrood has control of Scotland’s separate legal system.

As many as 100 people in Scotland may have been wrongly accused while working as Post Office branch managers. In 2020, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) wrote to 73 potential victims of miscarriages of justice.

Former First Minister Humza Yousaf pledged that all victims of the scandal in Scotland would have their convictions overturned.

He wanted to use a “legislative consent motion”, a device which would permit Westminster to extend to Scotland its law exonerating victims south of the Border.

But the UK Government has been warning for months this would be extremely difficult thanks to legal complexities, meaning a separate Bill will have to be introduced at Holyrood.

‘Her words do not appear to tally with the SNP position’

Mr Ross demanded clarity on whether Ms Bain’s personal view had changed since January, saying: “SNP ministers seem intent on gagging the Lord Advocate on this crucial issue, because her words in January do not appear to tally with their position.

“We have had weeks of confected outrage from the SNP that UK legislation offering blanket exonerations will not apply here, despite them knowing full well that the different legal system and prosecution mechanism here demands a separate Scottish law.”

He added: “Scottish victims of this appalling miscarriage of justice need to know if the person who is both head of the Crown Office and the SNP Government’s legal advisor actually believes in their bill, or if she rejects blanket exonerations.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are now bringing forward a Scottish bill that will ensure justice and compensation is delivered equally to postmasters, wherever they are in the UK.”

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