• Thursday, May 30, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Seema Misra accuses Post Office of imprisoning her to save £15,000

Misra’s legal team had requested crucial Horizon data spanning five years

Seema Misra (Image Credit: Sky News)

By: Pramod Thomas

FORMER sub-postmistress Seema Misra has alleged that the Post Office imprisoned her to save £15,000.

In 2010, while eight weeks pregnant with her second child, Misra received a 15-month prison sentence for six counts of false accounting and one of theft.

She operated a post office in West Byfleet, Surrey, for under three years, during which time faulty Horizon software led to a £74,600 discrepancy in her accounts.

She endured a two-year long investigation that included having her house searched and served more than four months in prison.

During the inquiry into the Post Office scandal on Wednesday (17), it was revealed that she might have escaped the ordeal if her employers had spent £15,000 to furnish her legal team with the Horizon data they requested prior to her trial, reported The Telegraph.

Testimony revealed that Misra’s legal team had requested crucial Horizon data spanning five years, a request that could have potentially absolved her of the accusations.

However, the Post Office neglected to provide this data due to cost concerns, estimated to exceed £15,000.

Jon Longman, a former Post Office investigator intimately involved in Misra’s case, defended the decision, stating that he wouldn’t have handled the initial investigation differently.

Emails presented during the inquiry detailed discussions about disclosure requests from Misra’s defence team.

Longman highlighted the cost factor in these communications, indicating that fulfilling the data request would have strained the Post Office’s finances.

It was revealed that limits were in place for the number of audit record queries (ARQs) that could be made each year, sometimes taking up to three years for data from requests to be made available.

“When I saw that £15,000 figure – I couldn’t believe it. They were willing to let an innocent person go to prison to save £15,000. People committed suicide as a result of this scandal – you had CEOs receiving millions of pounds, but they were worried about spending £15,000 on disclosure – it’s completely unethical,” Misra was quoted as saying.

“He (Longman) was going through my house from the morning to the evening and they were there that long because I had nothing to hide,” she said while describing the search.

“I had a freezer and they moved that to see if there was anything behind it. Then I had a temple in a room and I asked them to remove their shoes but they didn’t, it was so horrible.”

Misra said that accountability is paramount in the case, adding that every individual accountable for the scandal must be prosecuted and made to understand that the law applies equally to everyone.

She further said that nobody should be exempt from legal consequences.

The inquiry also heard from Allan Leighton, the former chairman of Royal Mail, who offered a solemn apology for the distress inflicted upon sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses during his tenure.

“What’s happened has been a terrible thing for everybody who has been involved, in particular the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses,” he said.

“It’s unbelievable that it’s happened and I just wanted to say that I’m sorry that elements of that occurred while at my tenure at the Royal Mail. I’m sorry for that happening.”

The inquiry will continue to scrutinise the actions of key figures within the Post Office hierarchy. Rodric Williams, a former litigation lawyer at the organisation, is slated to testify on Thursday (18).

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