Post Office scandal victims sceptical of Vennells’ apology

‘I wanted Vennells to be dragged away in handcuffs like I was,’ said Seema Misra.

Seema Misra. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Pramod Thomas

FORMER Post Office boss Paula Vennells’ appearance at the Horizon IT inquiry sparked mixed emotions among those impacted by the scandal, reported The Daily Mirror.

One of the Asian victims, Seema Misra, a former sub-postmistress, expressed frustration, saying that Vennells’ tears did little to alleviate the suffering of those affected.

Misra, who endured a wrongful conviction and prison sentence, stressed the lasting impact on victims’ lives and called for accountability, suggesting that Vennells and others involved should face criminal repercussions.

“I wanted Vennells to be dragged away in handcuffs like I was. She should be in handcuffs. Then she will have only an inkling of what I and so many have been through. We will be affected for the rest of our lives – she and the others should also have the same sentence. They are the real criminals – She is the real criminal,” Vennells was quoted as saying.

Misra took the role of sub-postmistress in West Byfleet, Surrey, in June 2005. However, in January 2008, she was suspended after an audit revealed a £74,000 shortfall in her accounts.

Following a two-year investigation, which included a search of her home, she was sentenced in 2010 to 15 months in prison for six counts of false accounting and one count of theft, while eight weeks pregnant with her second child. The 48-year-old mother of two was even required to wear an electronic tag during childbirth.

“I wish I could cry. I don’t have any more tears left. I’m still waiting for the full and financial redress. But justice would be to see Vennells and Post Office bosses behind bars. If she’s crying, it’s not for us – it’s for herself,” she said.

“If I hadn’t been pregnant, I definitely would have killed myself,” she said of her 2010 conviction. “It was the worst thing. It was so shameful.”

Vennells sobbed on Wednesday (22) after telling a public inquiry the wrongful conviction of hundreds of postmasters had been caused by errors not conspiracy, and if anything she had been “too trusting” of others.

Harjinder Butoy, another victim, pointed out the discrepancy between Vennells’ testimony and the reality of the victims’ experiences. Having spent years clearing his name and enduring societal ostracisation, Butoy echoed calls for justice, stressing the personal toll of the ordeal.

Butoy, 48, from Chesterfield, Derby, was falsely convicted of stealing £208,000 in 2007 and jailed for 18 months. He spent 15 years clearing his name.

“She has no clue what I’ve been through for the last 18 years. The time I spent jailed. It took 15 years just to clear my name. I didn’t care about the money, they took my good name. In our Asian culture where reputation is so important – we were totally ostracised. When we went to the local temple in Derby, people would be pointing the finger and whispering,” he was quoted as saying.

Jess Kaur, who faced baseless accusations, shared similar sentiments, reiterating the need for truth and accountability. Kaur said that Vennells’ apology did not change the suffering endured by victims and underscored the importance of holding those responsible accountable.

Christopher Head, once the youngest postmaster in the UK, expressed skepticism towards Vennells’ display of remorse, labelling it as a performance. He highlighted discrepancies between Vennells’ recollection and documented evidence.

Chirag Sidhpur, who suffered significant personal and financial losses, likened Vennells’ demeanour to that of a mafia boss, stressing her role in presiding over the ordeal faced by victims.

Overall, the testimonies reflect a deep-seated frustration and desire for accountability among those impacted by the Post Office scandal, underscoring the need for transparency and justice in addressing the aftermath of the wrongful convictions.