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    Post Office ‘tried to put words into my mouth’, says former Fujitsu engineer

    Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

    The Horizon IT system seemed to be working well “most of the time”, Gareth Jenkins, the former Fujitsu engineer who is often referred to as the architect of the faulty Horizon IT system, stated today (25) as he appeared at Aldwych House in London to face questions from the Post Office inquiry.

    Jenkins was used as an expert witness to support multiple Post Office prosecutions of subpostmasters. He has been described by Post Office lawyers as an “unreliable god” for failing to reveal key problems with Horizon.

    Jenkins is one of the key witnesses 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.

    In long-awaited evidence. Jenkins, 72, insisted that the bugs and errors in Horizon were “well controlled and managed”, infuriating subpostmasters.

    Jenkins claimed Post Office lawyer Warwick Tatford had looked over a draft of his witness statement for Seema Misra’s trial and recommended he “make some points more strongly in favour of the Post Office”.

    Tatford “wanted me to say it looked as though Mrs Misra had stolen money rather it was incompetence,” Jenkins wrote.

    Asked by inquiry counsel Jason Beer KC what he made of the proposed changes, Jenkins said he assumed it was “normal practice” as he had no comparable experience, but added it had made him feel “uncomfortable”.

    Jenkins told the inquiry, “Having looked back at things now, I can understand that may have been happening, but at the time I thought everything that was happening was just a legitimate tidying up of statements to make them more readable.”

    Further in the inquiry, Jenkins said he did not know that Seema Misra was pregnant at the time of her conviction.

    Misra was eight weeks pregnant when she was handed a 15-month sentence in 2010 for an alleged £74,000 shortfall. He gave evidence in her trial and less than three years later, the Post Office would receive legal advice urging the business not to use him in any more cases. 

    In his witness statement, Jenkins said, “I did not lie in my written evidence nor in my oral evidence. I did not intend in any way to be misleading.”

    Jenkins said he thought he had been “clear about the limits” of his evidence and described lying to convict an innocent person as “completely abhorrent”. 

    Post Office ‘tried to put words into my mouth’, says former Fujitsu engineer
    (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

    “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.”

    Misra, who was present at Aldwych House at the time, reportedly cried during Jenkin’s testimony and said that she did not accept his apology.

    In the case of former sub postmaster Lee Castleton, Jenkins said he “does not know” why he said the most likely explanation for the losses his accounts was a mistake or fraud.

    A 2005 email shown to the inquiry from Jenkins to a Fujitsu manager showed the engineer writing, “Certainly the most likely explanation is misoperation or fraud.”

    Asked about why this was the case, the former Fujitsu engineer said, “I’m not sure why I would have said that at the time.”

    During the inquiry Jenkins also said he did not understand the difference between criminal and civil courts. 

    The Fujitsu engineer has faced questions on an email he sent to Brian Pindar speculating on the cause of errors in the Horizon system, which he determined “most likely” to be human faults. In the email, he says he appreciates it is “not sufficient for a prosecution”, which uses the legal terminology of a criminal case despite referring to civil proceedings. 

    Asked at this stage if he understood the difference between criminal and civil proceedings, he responded “no”. 

    Pressed again by Jason Beer KC on whether he understood courts dealing with money and ones with prison, he answered, “Not really, no” and continued to say he was probably using “loose language as this was an internal email”. 

    The Fujitsu engineer also told the Horizon IT inquiry that Post Office staff would contact him directly with questions about the Horizon system and reports for court cases.

    Asked by Jason Beer KC whether he felt “under any pressure” from Post Office or its lawyers to “refute any suggestion by the defence” that there were issues with the software, Jenkins said, “There were certainly cases where they were trying to put words into my mouth, which I didn’t want to say.

    “And I think there are examples of emails where I’ve said- ‘Well I agree with what this defence statement is saying and I have nothing really to add to it’.”

    Asked what he thought about the pressure, Jenkins said, “I just took it as being the way these things happened. There was clearly in some cases…things seemed to be all happening last minute and I just assumed that’s how things happened in that kind of environment.”

    However, when pressed by Beer on his thoughts on the company putting words into his mouth, the Cambridge graduate said, “I wouldn’t allow them to put words in my mouth unless I agreed with them.”

    Jenkins is due to give evidence for four consecutive days up to Friday (28), the longest run of questions any witness has faced so far. The inquiry continues.

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