Former Post Office Manager Rejects Apology Over Wrongful Conviction

Seema Misra, UK Post Office scandal
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Seema Misra, an Indian-origin former manager of a Post Office in England, has rejected an apology from an engineer whose faulty evidence led to her wrongful imprisonment while pregnant. Misra, now 47, had her conviction quashed in April 2021 by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that she had been falsely convicted over 12 years ago for allegedly stealing £75,000 from her Post Office branch in Surrey, where she served as the sub-postmistress.

At the ongoing public inquiry into the scandal, Misra told the BBC that the apology from ex-Fujitsu engineer Gareth Jenkins was “too little, too late.” Misra criticized Jenkins for not apologizing sooner, stating, “Nobody can understand it,” and expressing frustration that he could have apologized “ages ago.”

Jenkins, who submitted a written witness statement to the Post Office Inquiry, claimed he was unaware of Misra’s pregnancy at the time of her conviction. “I did not know that Mrs. Misra was pregnant at the time of her conviction and only learned of this many years later,” Jenkins wrote. “This makes what has happened even more tragic. I can only apologize, again, to Mrs. Misra and her family for what happened to her.” Jenkins, who testified as an expert witness in 15 sub-postmaster cases, is currently under police investigation for potential perjury.

Previously, Misra had also rejected an apology from former Post Office Managing Director David Smith, who had sent a congratulatory email following her conviction. In his written evidence to the inquiry, Smith admitted that his email would have caused substantial distress to Misra and her family, and he expressed his regret for the impact of his words. “Knowing what I do now, it is evident that my email would have caused Seema Misra and her family substantial distress to read, and I would like to apologize for that,” he said.

Misra, who was eight weeks pregnant at the time of her imprisonment, stated, “I haven’t accepted the apologies. We had my conviction overturned, nobody came at that time to apologize. And now they just suddenly realized that when they have to appear in a public inquiry, they have to apologize.” Misra served four-and-a-half months in Bronzefield prison and gave birth to her second son while wearing an electronic tag.

Smith also revealed to the inquiry that Misra had been used as a “test case,” with the success of the case boosting confidence in the faulty Horizon IT accounting system. Misra expressed her anger, saying, “How can they do a test on a human being? I’m a living creature. I heard that my case has been used as a test case before. But hearing it again and again, it’s just annoying. It makes me more and more angry, to be honest.”

The UK government, which owns Post Office Ltd, has compensated hundreds of sub-postmasters affected by the flawed Horizon software, many of whom are of Indian heritage. Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged action in response to the historic scandal. Recently, a new law, the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill, was introduced in Parliament to provide a blanket exoneration for convictions based on erroneous Horizon evidence. The ongoing public inquiry is expected to conclude in July.

The Horizon system, developed by Fujitsu and introduced in 1999, was intended to assist post offices with accounting and stocktaking. However, significant bugs in the system led to widespread misreporting, often involving large sums of money, which resulted in the wrongful convictions of numerous sub-postmasters.

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