Horizon law may apply to convicted son of post office operator, court hears

<span>Legislation exonerating post office operators in Scotland wrongly convicted as part of the Horizon scandal came into force on Friday.</span><span>Photograph: Peter Lane/Alamy</span>
Legislation exonerating post office operators in Scotland wrongly convicted as part of the Horizon scandal came into force on Friday.Photograph: Peter Lane/Alamy

The son of a post office operator who says he admitted stealing £35,000 to save his mother from prison may be covered by new legislation exonerating those wrongly convicted in the Horizon scandal, a court has heard.

In February 2010, Ravinder Naga was ordered to complete 300 hours of community service and pay compensation of £35,000 after he confessed to stealing the money from the post office where his mother worked in Greenock, Inverclyde.

Naga has since said he confessed to a crime he did not commit because his mother would not have survived prison.

He told the BBC: “If someone had to be sacrificed then better me than my mum. The family could have coped if maybe I wasn’t there, but if my mum had been taken and something had happened to my mum then there would have been no recovery from that.”

In 2022 he requested a review of his conviction and sentence, and the Scottish Cases Review Commission referred it to the high court of the justiciary, saying Naga had “pleaded guilty in circumstances that were, or could be said to be, clearly prejudicial to him”.

Related: Toby Jones praises ‘extraordinary dignity’ of Post Office accused

The judge Leeona Dorrian opened the hearing at the court of session in Edinburgh on Friday by asking advocates if they had reached a view on whether Naga was covered by the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences (Scotland) Act, which came into effect on Friday.

Lewis Kennedy, representing Naga, said he believed his client was covered by the legislation, while Brian Gill KC, for the crown, indicated it would be a matter for ministers to determine.

Lady Dorrian asked Gill: “It may be covered by the new legislation?”

Gill replied: “It may be.”

Dorrian responded that “at the heart of this case is a simple issue”, saying there was “no doubt” that it involved a sum of money that was linked to the Horizon scandal, plus another sum that she said was currently “undetermined”.

She said: “The only issues are whether, had the deficiencies in the Horizon system been known of at the time, would that have made a difference to the statements made or the admissions made by the individual, and would it have made a difference to the conviction. It’s impossible for this court to understand why it’s taken so long for this to be determined.”

She ordered a two-day appeal hearing to begin on 26 September.

Legislation exonerating post office operators in Scotland wrongly convicted as part of the Post Office Horizon scandal came into force on Friday. A law doing so for post office operators in England and Wales was introduced earlier this year.

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