Humza Yousaf has been accused of leaving Scottish victims of the Post Office scandal in the dark after contradicting the Lord Advocate on how and when their names will be cleared.
At First Minister’s Questions, Douglas Ross called for clarity on whether there would be blanket exonerations for those wrongly prosecuted as a result of the faulty Horizon IT system.
Last week the First Minister said: “I think the idea of almost a mass exoneration is one that is very worthy of consideration.”
However, the current Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain told parliament earlier this week that prosecutions should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.
She said: “In Scotland, there is an established route of appeal in circumstances such as this. It is an important process, because not every case involving Horizon evidence will be a miscarriage of justice, and each case must be considered carefully.”
When asked to clarify the SNP Government’s position, Humza Yousaf said he wanted to work with the UK Government to extend their plans for mass exonerations to cover Scotland, either via a Legislative Consent Motion or by mirroring UK legislation.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross also urged the First Minister to back calls for former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland to answer questions in parliament on why the Crown Office continued to prosecute cases until 2015, despite problems with Horizon having come to light two years earlier.
Humza Yousaf replied that the current Lord Advocate was accountable for the Crown Office’s actions.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The Scottish victims of this appalling miscarriage of justice remain completely in the dark about when they will finally see justice.
“The First Minister again backed mass exonerations for sub-postmasters, as he did last week, while failing to dismiss the Lord Advocate’s assertion that prosecutions should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. It’s clear that Humza Yousaf and the Lord Advocate are at odds with each other on this.
“The Lord Advocate doesn’t want to change the process and accelerate the system because there may be some guilty people.
“Scottish victims should not have to wait longer for justice than their counterparts south of the border. They need reassurance and clarity from Humza Yousaf – but once again they failed to get it.
“Judith Smith pled guilty in 2009, at Selkirk Sheriff Court, to a charge of fraud after thousands of pounds disappeared.
“Her lawyer told us the Crown Office displayed a worrying lack of scepticism at the Post Office’s case, particularly as there was no trace of the money anywhere. Judith was even asked if she had blown it all on a lavish holiday, or if she had a gambling problem.
“Her conviction was finally quashed last week, but Judith’s lawyer said the Crown Office should have launched a review of all past Post Office prosecutions the minute it became aware of Horizon failings in 2013. But it didn’t.
“That’s why we need to question the Lord Advocate at the time, Frank Mulholland. I’m disappointed that the First Minister won’t back our calls for him to appear before MSPs.”