A decision not to extend legislation quashing convictions of sub-postmasters to Northern Ireland or Scotland is “very disappointing”, Stormont’s justice minister has said.

Naomi Long made the comments on Wednesday after the new legislation, which currently only applies to England and Wales, was introduced in the House of Commons.

It is expected to clear the majority of victims of convictions by the end of July.

More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015.

The long-running saga was put in a fresh spotlight by ITV’s acclaimed drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office.

The Prime Minister told MPs that the proposed Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill “marks an important step forward in finally clearing” the names of hundreds of wronged branch managers who have had their lives “callously torn apart”.

Naomi Long said the first and deputy first ministers had “sought reassurances” from government ministers Steve Baker and Michael Gove on Tuesday, that Northern Ireland would be included in the legislation.

“They seemed open and flexible about the inclusion of Northern Ireland in that legislation,” explained Mrs Long, adding that it was “particularly frustrating they have decided to proceed without”.

On Wednesday, the prime minister told MPs that the government is “continuing to work with counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland as they develop their plans, but regardless of where and how convictions are quashed, redress will be paid to victims across the whole of the UK on exactly the same basis”.

Stormont’s Justice Minister Naomi Long said she believes that the “optimum solution” to the issue would have been for Northern Ireland “to be on the face of the legislation when it was published”.

She added: “Second to that is amendments at Westminster, and that’s what we’re actively pursuing.

“In the meantime, I am continuing to look at a fall back position that will give cover because I want to make sure, at the end of the day, that the people in Northern Ireland who were affected have access to compensation on the same basis as everyone else in the UK.”

Mrs Long added that there are understood to be a “relatively low number of cases, somewhere between 20 and 25” in Northern Ireland, “is why producing primary legislation in the (Assembly) chamber and going through all of that process is a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Those with overturned convictions will receive an interim payment with the option of immediately taking a fixed and final offer of £600,000, according to No10.

There will also be “enhanced” financial redress for sub-postmasters who, while not convicted or part of legal action against the Post Office, made good the apparent losses caused by the Horizon system from their own pockets.

They will be entitled to a fixed sum of £75,000 through the Horizon Shortfall Scheme, the government said.

Those who have already settled for less money will have their compensation topped up to this level, while people can instead choose to have their claims assessed as part of the usual scheme process, in which there is no limit to compensation.

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said: “Given these prosecutions were undertaken by authorities in those legal jurisdictions, it is right that their respective parliaments and assemblies hold their own independent judicial systems to account.

“We will continue to work with them to ensure those wrongly prosecuted in Scotland and Northern Ireland are able to access the UK compensation scheme – so that compensation can be paid to victims across the whole of the UK.”

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