• Monday, November 28, 2022

Column

Post Office Scandal: Those falsely convicted of theft deserve justice

Post Office (Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images).

By: Radhakrishna N S

 

By Amit Roy

THERE is just one solution to this. Those at the Post Office who were responsible for Seema Misra being jailed should now themselves be sent to prison and made to sell their own properties to fund the multi-million-pound compensation claims.

In one of the worst miscarriages of justice to have taken place for many years, Seema, a sub-postmistress, was sent to prison for 15 months in November 2010 for stealing £74,000 from the Post Office as well as false accounting.

She has described prison as “horrible, horrible”.

Now – rather like the Iranian government which insisted it was not responsible for shooting down a civilian airliner before owning up – it turns out Seema was innocent all along. It was the Post Office’s Horizon computer that was at fault.

Like the ayatollahs who have admitted that their missile brought down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 through “human error”, Paula Vennells, who was chief executive of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, has apologised for “the distress this caused” to people like Seema.

Due to defects in the Horizon computer system, introduced by the Post Office in 1999, some 550 sub-postmasters and mistresses were accused of theft. Many were stripped of their establishments and forced to pay back thousands of pounds they hadn’t stolen. At least 34 people, such as Seema, were prosecuted and jailed.

Seema, who had bought her post office in West Byfleet, Surrey, for £250,000 in 2005 with her husband Davinder, discovered during her trial at Guildford crown court that she was pregnant with her second child.  When she received treatment at the Royal Surrey Hospital, she was escorted out in handcuffs by two policemen.

She was released after four months for good behaviour, but her conviction still has not been cancelled. Seema and her husband have also lost two properties.

The convictions are being examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), with a bland comment from a Post Office spokesman: “We are committed to conducting ourselves with the utmost probity, but given the CCRC’s investigations are continuing, it is not appropriate for us to comment on individual cases.”

At the very least, shouldn’t the police be looking at bringing criminal charges against those responsible for Seema’s nightmare?.

Eastern Eye

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