Post Office: Wrongly jailed sub-postmistress rejects apology

Post Office: Wrongly jailed sub-postmistress rejects apology

12 minutes agoBy Tom Espiner, BBC business reporterBBC NewsSeema Misra was pregnant when she was jailed – her conviction was later quashed

A former sub-postmistress wrongly jailed while pregnant during the Post Office scandal has rejected an apology from an ex-Fujitsu engineer whose evidence helped convict her.

Seema Misra told the BBC that a statement from Gareth Jenkins was “too little, too late”.

At the inquiry on Tuesday, Mrs Misra said she wanted to know “why on earth he did what he did”.

While at Fujitsu Mr Jenkins was involved in the development of the Horizon accountancy software used by sub-postmasters across the UK.

The Post Office wrongly prosecuted about 700 sub-postmasters between 1999 and 2015 for theft and fraud on the basis of incorrect data from the system.

As an expert witness, Mr Jenkins was pivotal in helping the Post Office defend the faulty computer software system in criminal and civil cases.

At Mrs Misra’s trial in 2010 he failed to tell the court about a bug in the software which could have undermined the case against her.

Mrs Misra was found guilty of theft and false accounting and was sent to prison while she was eight weeks pregnant. Her conviction was quashed in 2021.

In a witness statement submitted to the Post Office Inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Jenkins said: “I did not know that Mrs Misra was pregnant at the time of her conviction and only learned of this many years later.

“This makes what has happened even more tragic. I can only apologise, again, to Mrs Misra and her family for what happened to her.”

But Mrs Misra said that Mr Jenkins could have said sorry “ages ago” and there was no way he could understand what she went through.

“Nobody can understand it,” she said tearfully.

She also questioned why he had not told the court in her case about the Horizon bug, saying it would have been “common sense”.

Mr Jenkins is one of the key witnesses at the inquiry, and will be questioned for four days in total – the longest of any witnesses called, including former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells.

The former enhgineer, who appeared as an expert witness in 15 sub-postmaster cases, is currently being investigated by police for potential perjury – lying to a court.

In one of his witness statements to the inquiry he denied any wrongdoing.

‘I did not lie’

“I did not lie in my written evidence nor in my oral evidence,” he wrote. “I did not intend in any way to be misleading. The idea that I would lie about Horizon, knowing that an innocent person could be convicted and imprisoned, is completely abhorrent to me.”

He added that he had not been given “much by way of proper guidance or legal oversight” by Post Office lawyers.

Mr Jenkins was part of the team that helped develop Horizon, although he denied being the chief architect of the system.

In his evidence on Tuesday, Mr Jenkins said that software worked well “most of the time” and that he did not accept a judgment in December 2019 that it was not “remotely robust”.

However, he admitted he should have done more research into bugs and errors in the system before giving evidence in court.

“I was confident, possibly wrongly so, that when problems did occur they were quickly fixed and they weren’t left to fester in the system to have a large impact,” he said.

Post Office Inquiry

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