Lawyer accuses Post Office of withholding crucial Information

Simon Clarke said that the Post Office concealed a document from him when he reviewed Seema Misra’s case in 2014

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By: Pramod Thomas

A barrister who advised the Post Office to stop prosecuting branch owner-operators has alleged that the state-owned company likely tricked him by not providing important information.

While speaking during the public inquiry, Simon Clarke, who worked for the law firm Cartwright King, said that the Post Office concealed a document from him when he reviewed Seema Misra’s case in 2014, reported The Guardian.

Misra was sentenced to 15 months in prison for theft and was jailed on her son’s 10th birthday while eight weeks pregnant. She was among those exonerated by the court of appeal in 2021.

Clarke couldn’t access the Post Office’s file for Misra’s case, which he thinks was on purpose. He felt misled by the Post Office, especially since they denied Horizon had problems.

“I am now sure that POL [Post Office Ltd] must have deceived both me and CK [Cartwright King]; I say this because it is now obvious to me that highly relevant material was not provided to me either at all, or when it should have been provided. I conclude that this failure to properly inform me was a decision taken by those in a position to do [and] act as they did,” Clarke was quoted as saying in his witness statement.

The inquiry is examining the wrongful prosecution of numerous branch owners pursued by the Post Office due to financial discrepancies in their branch accounts, which were ultimately attributed to glitches in the Horizon computer system.

Clarke said that when he started examining Misra’s case, he was informed that the Post Office’s prosecution file couldn’t be accessed. However, he informed the inquiry that he now suspected it had been intentionally kept from him.

“That is now my view. It crystallises my view that I was misled and deceived. Post Office repeated their protestations that since day dot there was nothing wrong with Horizon when clearly they knew there were issues,” he told the hearing.

In 2013, Clarke wrote a legal advice for the Post Office. He said their past prosecutions were flawed because they relied on Gareth Jenkins, an expert from IT company Fujitsu. Jenkins, according to Clarke, didn’t tell defendants about Horizon bugs that could have helped them.

The impact of Clarke’s advice was significant, leading to a halt in the prosecution of branch owners by the Post Office, the report said. However, it also raised concerns about the corporate culture within the Post Office and its approach to addressing issues related to the Horizon system.

By 2015, Clarke’s law firm realised it was misled by the Post Office about Horizon. The law firm also saw problems with how the Post Office handled Horizon issues.

The public inquiry into the scandal continues.