Post Office 'misled and deceived me' says key lawyer

Post Office van in London

A barrister who worked for a firm advising the Post Office says he was “misled and deceived” by them about evidence in the key case of sub-postmistress Seema Misra.

Simon Clarke from the law firm Cartwright King played a crucial role in bringing those prosecutions to an end.

He was giving evidence at the Horizon Inquiry, which aims to explain how hundreds of sub-postmasters were falsely accused of taking money from the tills, using evidence from a flawed computer system

Mr Clarke told the inquiry about how he came to realise that a key expert witness was not sharing information about software bugs that caused accounting discrepancies.

In frank and often self-critical testimony, Mr Clarke admitted that hearing about the bugs had been a “bombshell”.

More than 900 sub-postmasters were wrongly convicted for theft and false accounting using evidence from the faulty computer system.

It appears few people played a more pivotal role than Gareth Jenkins.

The senior engineer from Fujitsu was a key architect of the flawed IT system which ran in every Post Office across the UK, and he provided expert evidence in several court cases testifying that the system was robust.

His evidence was pivotal in the case of Seema Misra, the sub-postmistress from West Byfleet in Surrey who was sent to jail in 2010 - while pregnant – for alleged theft.


On Thursday, the Horizon Inquiry was shown a transcript of a phone call, during which the barrister Mr Clarke discussed what Gareth Jenkins knew about the software bugs. Mr Clarke's law firm, Cartwright King, was working with the Post Office at the time.

The transcript confirmed that Mr Jenkins knew of two bugs in the Horizon system, and that he could not be sure there were not more. It indicated that he must have known of the bugs earlier because he had informed the independent investigators Second Sight that they existed.

A few weeks later Mr Clarke wrote formal legal advice to the Post Office which warned that Mr Jenkins had failed to disclose information “in plain breach of his duty as an expert witness", and this put the Post Office “in breach of its duty as a prosecutor”.

A lawyer for Mr Jenkins told the BBC in March it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment ahead of him giving evidence to the Inquiry in June.

However, despite raising these doubts over Mr Jenkins’ testimony, Mr Clarke advised the Post Office that the information did not have to be disclosed to lawyers representing Mrs Misra.

That information would have allowed her to mount an “irresistible” appeal against her conviction, and would have helped defendants in other cases too, lawyers at the Inquiry suggested.

Mr Clarke said Post Office lawyers never showed him all the documents from the Misra trial.

He said he had asked “on a number of occasions” to see the file of documents relating to the trial.

“I came to the conclusion that it was deliberately withheld from me,” he said.

He said he was “misled” by the Post Office over whether there were other Horizon bugs, too.

When he joined the Post Office in 2013, Mr Clarke said he asked for a copy of the Post Office’s prosecution policy – the rules they used to decide whether to proceed with prosecutions against sub-postmasters.

What came back was a “single A4 document, badly photocopied”, he told the Inquiry. “I can’t remember what it said, but it wasn’t a prosecution policy,” he said.

He proposed a revised version based on the Crown Prosecution Service’s policy, and was disappointed when what he called a “watered-down” version was adopted.


Later in 2013 Mr Clarke wrote another memo warning that the Post Office was destroying evidence of Horizon bugs raised in regular "hub" meetings, convened to pool knowledge of problems with the system. He advised that the practice must stop.

He was asked about why he carried on working for the Post Office, once he knew about Gareth Jenkins’s situation and the shredding of evidence about the bugs.

“I am a bit old-fashioned about this,” he said. “Barristers don’t just walk away from their clients when life gets difficult.”

“It’s trite,” he said, but he kept working for the Post Office “in the hope that I could do some good for them.”

The inquiry continues.