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    Former Post Office lawyer denies ‘covering up’ allegations

    (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

    A former Post Office lawyer has denied “covering up” knowledge of problems with the Horizon IT system after a public inquiry heard that he “sat on” an email highlighting IT bugs, which was not disclosed to the criminal trial of a pregnant post office operative.

    Jarnail Singh, the former head of criminal law at the Post Office, was being questioned at the long-running public inquiry into the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of post office operators during which the inquiry heard today (3) that Singh received an email on Oct 8 2010, highlighting IT problems with the Horizon IT system – days before the start of the criminal trial of Seema Misra, who was jailed in 2010.

    Former sub-postmistress Misra was sentenced to 15 months in prison for theft while eight weeks pregnant. Her conviction was among those overturned by the court of appeal in 2021.

    The Oct 8 email forwarded to Singh was written by another Post Office executive, Alan Simpson, who highlighted “a series of incidents” whereby “it appears that when posting discrepancies to the local suspense [account] these amounts simply disappear at branch level”.

    Jason Beer KC, counsel to the inquiry, told Singh that the 2010 email should have “rung alarm bells” because it showed money was shown as disappearing from the Horizon IT system at branch level. However, the email was never disclosed to Misra’s defence lawyers before her 2010 trial, which began the following week.

    Singh told the inquiry, “I don’t remember seeing the email … [or] the attachments to it at all … From memory I don’t recall this document.”

    Beer told the inquiry that the document had been saved to Singh’s computer and had been printed out minutes after it was received.

    Singh replied, “That is not true and I don’t feel guilty because I haven’t received it … I don’t recall receiving it, reading it or printing it – that is my evidence on oath.”

    Furthermore, the inquiry heard that Singh wrote in an email in 2014 that it was the “correct decision” by the Post Office not to disclose investigating officers’ reports, and said had they been disclosed in the case of ex-sub-postmistress Jo Hamilton, it would’ve been “an extremely dangerous approach”.

    Hamilton was prosecuted for a shortfall of £36,000 at her Post Office in South Warnborough, Hampshire in 2006 and was persuaded to plead guilty to a charge of false accounting.

    Singh denied that he had read the investigation report into allegations against Hamilton, and was therefore unaware of the faults in her case. Beer pushed back against this, and said it seems he’d read the report because he quoted directly from it.

    During a testy exchange, Singh called not disclosing investigating officers’ reports in Hamilton’s case a “mistake” while Beer pushed that it was a “part of a cover-up.”

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