The Post Office has been stripped of its status as a specialist reporting agency to Scotland’s prosecutors due to the Horizon scandal, MSPs have been told.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, who leads the Crown Office, said the Post Office would instead have to report allegations of crimes to the police.

Appearing at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Ms Bain also sought to defend the Crown from suggestions it should have been more suspicious of the flawed evidence from the Horizon system.

She has previously told MSPs that 54 people are thought to have been affected by the scandal north of the border.

Earlier this week, the Scottish Government brought forward emergency legislation to clear the name of Scottish subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted.

As well as being the head of the Crown Office, the Lord Advocate is also the Scottish Government’s principal legal adviser.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Dorothy Bain said her previous remarks had been taken out of context (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Bain provided a further update to MSPs on progress on the Horizon cases on Thursday, after opposition parties had called for her to give another statement to Parliament.

She said the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission is currently dealing with 10 Horizon-linked cases.

The Lord Advocate said: “Because of its fundamental and sustained failures in connection with Horizon cases in Scotland, I’ve decided that Post Office Limited is not fit to be a specialist reporting agency.

“It is therefore no longer able to investigate and report criminal allegations directly to the Crown and it should now instead report any allegations of criminality to Police Scotland for them to investigate.

“It has been suggested with the benefit of hindsight that the Crown should have been more suspicious of the Post Office and should have conducted a review and convictions involving Horizon.

“However, the state of knowledge as it then was is not what we know it to be now.”

The full extent of the Horizon problems only became clear after civil litigation in 2019, she said.

Opposition parties have said the Crown Office had suspicions about the Post Office in 2013 but did not pause prosecutions until 2015.

Russell Findlay comments
Russell Findlay said there are still unanswered questions (Fraser Bremner/PA)

Ms Bain later told MSPs that some of her comments had been “taken out of context” when it was put to her that she had previously opposed the principle of mass exonerations in Horizon cases.

Following her evidence, Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay said: “Following multiple Scottish Conservative requests, the Lord Advocate rightly returned to Parliament, but many questions remain unanswered.

“We still don’t know whether or not she believes in the legislation’s blanket exoneration of Horizon victims.

“Dithering SNP ministers also need to stop using the UK legislation as a phoney excuse to delay the Scottish Bill. They need to get on with it, for the sake of the Post Office victims.

“Former lord advocate Frank Mulholland was in charge during this mass miscarriage of justice and it is only right that he should also come to Parliament.”

A Post Office spokesman said: “We continue to do our utmost to assist the work of other prosecuting authorities, including the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Scotland.

“We also confirmed to COPFS that Post Office does not wish to retain its status as a specialist reporting agency in Scotland. In cases of suspected criminal activity, Post Office now refers evidence to Police Scotland.”