Horizon scandal victim demands jail for those who denied her justice

A former sub-postmaster who was wrongly jailed, while pregnant, for the failures of the Post Office Horizon IT system has demanded jail for those who denied her justice.

Seema Misra was speaking after watching the investigator in her case give evidence to the inquiry into the scandal.

Jon Longman expressed regret, with hindsight, that disclosures that could have assisted her case were not made.

Image: Seema Misra was released early with a tag for good behaviour

He told the inquiry he did not think of it at the time and he “always thought” the accounting system was “robust”.

He did, however, acknowledge issues with the software in some cases.

It was his job, for 12 years from the year 2000, to uncover crime committed by employees, including sub-postmasters.

It has since emerged that security advisers at the company were incentivised to seek prosecutions through bonuses for convictions.

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Mr Longman, who gave evidence remotely for medical reasons, said media articles made him aware of a growing number of complaints about the Horizon system, operated by Fujitsu.

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But he admitted that evidence of IT problems in the case of Jennifer O’Dell that he had worked on, was not passed to the legal team of Ms Misra.

The former West Byfleet sub-postmistress was suspended in 2008 and later jailed for 15 months in 2010 – a conviction that was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 2021.

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People’s lives were ‘destroyed’

He added that he was not a barrier to disclosures that may have prevented Ms Misra’s ordeal, saying he would have been happy to hand over any information but it was ultimately not often his decision to make.

The inquiry heard that Post Office lawyers warned Ms Misra’s defence team that the retrieval of transaction data relating to her case was “not a free service”.

Mr Longman said that suspicions of a fault with Horizon in the case of Jennifer O’Dell, who was wrongly accused of stealing more than £9,600, were not passed on.

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Read more on this story: Ex-Post Office ops boss admits ‘missed opportunity’Govt ‘would not have accepted ending Horizon software’Horizon IT scandal explained

He added that cost was a factor in the decision not to request transaction data from Fujitsu in Ms O’Dell’s case, placing a greater burden on her defence team to fight the theft charges.

Limits were in place for the number of audit record queries (ARQs) that could be made each year, the inquiry heard, sometimes taking up to three years for data from requests to be made available.

Commenting more widely on his investigative work, Mr Longman’s witness statement added: “At the time, I do not believe that I considered a challenge to the Horizon system in one case to be relevant to other cases.

“As explained earlier in this statement, it was never confirmed to me that there was a definite fault with the Horizon system. As such, I was under the impression that the system was operating as expected.”