(qlmbusinessnews.com Wed. 26th June, 2024) London, UK —

“Engineer’s Apology Too Late for Wrongly Imprisoned Sub-Postmistress, Says Seema Misra”

A former sub-postmistress who was wrongfully imprisoned while pregnant has declined an apology from an ex-Fujitsu engineer whose testimony contributed to her conviction.

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

Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office erroneously prosecuted around 700 sub-postmasters for theft and fraud based on flawed data from their IT system.

At the inquiry into the scandal on Tuesday, Mrs Misra expressed her desire to understand “why on Earth he did what he did.”

During his time at Fujitsu, Mr Jenkins was involved in the development of the Horizon accounting software used by sub-postmasters across the UK. As an expert witness, Mr Jenkins was crucial in assisting the Post Office in defending the faulty computer software system in both criminal and civil cases.

At Mrs Misra's 2010 trial, he did not disclose to the court a bug in the software that could have undermined the case against her.

Mrs Misra, from West Byfleet, Surrey, was convicted of theft and false accounting and was imprisoned while she was eight weeks pregnant. Her conviction was overturned 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.”

However, Mrs Misra argued that Mr Jenkins could have apologised “ages ago” and that there was no way he could understand her ordeal. “Nobody can understand it,” she said tearfully.

She also questioned why he had not informed the court about the Horizon bug, stating it would have been “common sense.”

Mr Jenkins is a key witness 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 engineer, who testified as an expert witness in 15 sub-postmaster cases, is currently under police investigation for potential perjury.

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 received “much by way of proper guidance or legal oversight” from 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 testimony on Tuesday, Mr Jenkins stated that the software worked well “most of the time” and did not accept a December 2019 judgement that it was not “remotely robust.” However, he admitted he should have conducted more research into bugs and errors in the system before testifying 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.

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