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Post Office lawyer ‘covered up’ flawed prosecution of pregnant subpostmistress

03 May 2024 5 minute read
Jarnail Singh, solicitor and former lawyer at Royal Mail Group and Post Office Ltd. Photo Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry/PA Wire

A former top Post Office lawyer knew of bugs in the Horizon IT system which resulted in account discrepancies days before legal proceedings which saw a pregnant subpostmistress jailed began and subsequently lied to “cover up” that fact, an inquiry has heard.

Senior in-house lawyer Jarnail Singh was copied into an email containing a report which identified the glitch but denied knowledge of it for years – despite saving the document and printing it out, the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry heard.

Mr Singh, who denied the claims, was a senior lawyer at the Post Office and became head of criminal law in 2012 after it split with Royal Mail.


The report, sent to Mr Singh just three days before Seema Misra’s case began in October 2010, described a bug “that will result in a receipts payment mismatch” and offered an explanation for apparent cases of theft among subpostmasters, counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC said.

Ms Misra was eight weeks pregnant when she was handed a 15-month prison sentence on her son’s 10th birthday in November 2010 after being accused of stealing £74,000 from her branch in West Byfleet, Surrey.

Her conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2021.

Mr Singh said he “wasn’t made aware” of the report, written by Fujitsu engineer Gareth Jenkins and forwarded to lawyers Mr Singh and Juliet Macfarlane by Rob Wilson, then head of criminal law at the Post Office.

But Mr Beer said a file address on the bottom of the document, which included Mr Singh’s name, showed the lawyer had both saved the report to his drive and printed it out only nine minutes later.


He said this proved Mr Singh had lied years later when he denied having advance knowledge of the issues uncovered by a 2013 report carried out by forensic accounting firm Second Sight.

Mr Singh said he also did not know how to save or print documents during his employment at the organisation and had to ask others to do it for him.

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about – I don’t know how these things work,” he said.

Mr Beer asked: “You don’t know how to save a document?”

The lawyer replied: “No. I didn’t at that time.”

Mr Beer accused Mr Singh of telling “a big fat lie” to the inquiry and of having failed to disclose important information to the defence or court ahead of Ms Misra’s prosecution, asking: “You’d known about the bug all along hadn’t you, Mr Singh?”

The lawyer responded: “No, that’s not true.”

‘Cover up’

Asked again by Mr Beer if he “sought to cover up” his knowledge of the fault, Mr Singh answered: “There is no way I would ever cover up anything of that magnitude.”

The inquiry saw an email sent by Mr Singh to colleagues in 2015 where he said he knew of the bugs uncovered by Second Sight only “a day or so prior” to its report’s publication.

In it, he warned the organisation would be “entering dangerous territory” if it responded to a BBC investigation.

He continued: “Of course, it would be highly embarrassing for POL (Post Office Limited) were it to be suggested that Fujitsu had informed some part of POL and that information had never reached the security team.

“Equally, it is embarrassing were it to be suggested POL were kept in the dark by such an important supplier such as Fujitsu.”

Another email sent in 2012 saw Mr Singh warn former Post Office general counsel Susan Crichton that stopping prosecutions “may open post office to criticism and undermine faith in horizon (sic)”.

The inquiry also saw advice provided to the Post Office in 2013 by external barrister Simon Clarke which reported that Mr Singh had “been unaware and did not know of how long (Post Office Limited) had known of the existence of the bugs nor indeed who at POL had known”.


Mr Singh told the inquiry “mistakes were made” in the prosecution of Ms Misra.

He added: “I’m ever so sorry Ms Misra had suffered and I am ever so embarrassed to be here, that we made those mistakes and put somebody’s liberty at stake and the loss she suffered and the damage caused which was not what this was about.”

Errors in the Post Office’s Horizon IT system meant money appeared to be missing from many branch accounts when, in fact, it was not.

As a result, the government-owned organisation prosecuted more than 700 subpostmasters who were handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015.

The scandal represents one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK legal history.

Since then, the Court of Appeal has quashed the convictions of more than 100 subpostmasters.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are still awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those whose convictions have been quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

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