‘I didn’t come here to lie’: Post Office solicitor denies evidence cover-up

A criminal lawyer with the Post Office was told of bugs in the Horizon days before the trial of a pregnant sub-postmistress – but did not disclose this to the defence team, the Post Office inquiry has heard. 

On Friday the inquiry was shown email from a member of the Post Office security team in October 2010 stating that a ‘series of incidents’ had been identified by IT supplier Fujitsu which could make discrepancies in branches ‘simply disappear’. The email was sent to in-house solicitor Jarnail Singh and an attachment with details of Fujitsu’s findings were saved to his computer. Records show it was also printed out nine minutes after being received.

The email was sent days before the trial of West Benfleet sub-postmistress Seema Misra, who was pregnant at the time with her second child and later jailed for 15 months.

Singh said he had not seen the email and did not read the attachment. He denied ever printing the documents and said he did not know at the time how to save an attachment.

Jason Beer KC, counsel for the inquiry, had begun the hearing asking if Singh had known about the existence of bugs before 2013 when forensic accountants Second Sight found issues with Horizon. Beer suggested Singh’s repeated assertion that he was unaware of bugs and defects was a ‘big fat lie’ and that the solicitor had attempted to cover up their existence.

Singh responded: ‘I didn’t come here to lie. I am at an age where I have come here to assist the inquiry.’

The inquiry then saw an email received by Singh at the same time from in-house civil lawyer Mandy Talbot, which said he had ‘promised to let me know if anything unfortunate occurred in respect of Horizon [at the Misra trial]’.

Singh repeatedly described himself as a ‘postbox’ who was used to relay information between other members of the business. But he was directly involved in discussions around prosecutions and deals to silence sub-postmasters from talking about Horizon.

An email from 2013 showed that he advised that a false accounting plea could be offered to one individual ‘provided [the] defendant accepts as part of his guilty plea in writing that he does not challenge the integrity or blame or criticises the Horizon system’.

Singhsaid it was ‘painful’ to hear that people were forced into making guilty pleas to false accounting but asserted that he was not the ultimate decision-maker.

On another occasion, he noted in an email in 2014 that prosecutions should be intended ‘to protect POL brand and reputation and in the interests of the business’.

The inquiry continues.


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