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A senior Post Office lawyer urged an engineer to give evidence to a court that would help “preserve” his IT system before a trial led to the imprisonment of a wrongfully convicted pregnant sub-postmaster, an investigation has found.
Jarnail Singh emailed Fujitsu engineer Gareth Jenkins in March 2010, asking him to find the “shortest range” of transaction logs to “refute or refute” a defense expert’s conclusions that the Horizon system was flawed “.
Counsel in the case, Warwick Tatford, told the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry that the advice given by Mr Singh ahead of the prosecution of Seema Misra was “disastrous”.
He added: “I’m sorry, this shouldn’t have happened.
“As far as I’m concerned, I was the prosecutor in the case… and I obviously didn’t ensure that there was an atmosphere in which an expert could be properly briefed.
“I would like to think that if I had seen it I would have done my best to solve the problem and put an end to it, but it is a very disturbing read.”
Sorry, I find this quite difficult, it’s not really about me, but I’m ashamed of what happened
Prosecutor Warwick Tatford
Under questioning by the lawyer representing Ms Misra, Edward Henry KC, the witness said he believed he had been “misled” by the Post Office before and during its trial about the reliability and robustness of the Horizon system .
He said: “Where the failure to provide information comes from is completely unclear to me, but I have not been given a full overview of the problems with Horizon. I will say so.”
Holding back tears as he began his testimony on Wednesday, Mr. Tatford said he was ashamed “that I was involved in this” and apologized to Ms. Misra, who was sitting in the public gallery.
Ms Misra started running a post office in West Byfleet, Surrey, in 2005 and was eight weeks pregnant when she was jailed.
She was suspended in 2008 and given a 15-month prison sentence in November 2010 after being accused of stealing £74,000.
Ms. Misra was one of more than 700 post office managers who were criminally convicted after the system installed and maintained by Fujitsu made it appear as if money was missing.
In December 2019, a Supreme Court judge ruled that Horizon contained a number of “errors, errors and defects” and that there was a “significant risk” that the system would cause deficits in post office accounts.
During his evidence, Mr Tatford was shown Mr Singh’s email to Mr Jenkins, which said: “As you are our Horizon expert, you will need to call Charles McLachlan… to arrange a meeting to discuss all his reports and discuss your concerns about it.” Horizon so you can deal with it and refute it.”
The email continued: “…and then write a detailed report that would help advance and complete this matter and, most importantly, preserve the Horizon system.”
“Perhaps the easiest and most practical way to deal with this whole question is to find as short a period of minutes as possible, analyze it and refute or refute what the defense expert says in his reports.
“Just a reminder, you are an expert on Fujitsu, you will testify in court, the judge and jury will listen to you very carefully and a lot will depend on the evidence.”
Mr Tatford was also shown an email forwarded to him in which Mr Jenkins said he was “hesitant” to provide expert evidence because he was aware of a report of a Horizon fault at a branch in Falkirk.
The witness told the inquest: “It’s my fault, I’m sorry. I didn’t remember seeing that, it would have made me ask questions.”
He added: “If I had read this document and compared it to other documents, that could have been the error, but it’s obviously something I missed, and that’s important, and I missed it, and it does “I’m sorry about that.”
Earlier in his evidence to the inquiry, Mr Tatford apologized to Ms Misra and fellow sub-postmaster Carl Page, whom he had also prosecuted as a junior barrister.
Mr Tatford said: “I would like to apologize unreservedly to both of them.
“I know Ms Misra… I can see her and I am very sorry.
“I don’t know if Mr. Page is here, but I apologize to him.”
Mr Tatford took time to apologize and appeared to be holding back tears as he said: “I’m sorry, I find this quite difficult, it’s not really about me but I’m ashamed of what happened.”
“The best thing I can do is help with the investigation and learn a little myself.
“That’s enough about me; It’s much more important to answer the questions, but I’m sorry.”
Hundreds of victims of the scandal are waiting for compensation.
The investigation continues.
Source : www.independent.co.uk