Post Office lawyer implicated in IT scandal as blame spreads

Jarnail Singh, a former senior criminal lawyer at the Post Office, is facing criticism for his role in a court victory that led to the imprisonment of a pregnant woman without evidence of a crime. Singh, who worked in the Post Office’s criminal law team during a period when many subpostmasters were prosecuted based on flawed evidence from the Horizon computer system, appeared in the latest hearing of the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry. The inquiry is examining the conduct of the Post Office’s legal teams during a time when the organization caused a significant miscarriage of justice.

Singh’s name has been mentioned multiple times in the public inquiry, particularly in relation to an email he sent in 2012 celebrating the successful prosecution of former subpostmaster Seema Misra. Misra was accused of theft when accounting shortfalls occurred in her branch, despite there being no evidence against her. During the trial, Misra raised concerns about the Horizon system possibly causing the shortfalls. In the email, Singh praised the hard work of his colleagues and touted their ability to disprove the defense’s claims. He also expressed hope that this victory would discourage other subpostmasters from criticizing the Horizon system. However, it was later discovered that the Post Office’s branch software had errors that could cause phantom shortfalls, leading to Misra’s wrongful conviction being overturned in April 2021.

Furthermore, Singh has claimed that he was not solely responsible for his actions and failures to investigate subpostmaster claims about the Horizon system. He suggested that he relied on others’ opinions about the system and that the task of managing investigations across the country was too challenging for the organization.

During the hearing, Singh denied that the statement in the celebratory email was his own and claimed it was dictated to him. When asked who dictated those words, he said he didn’t know, speculating that it may have been approved by Rob Wilson, head of criminal law at the Post Office.

Singh also faced questions about the motivations behind the Post Office’s decisions to launch criminal investigations and prosecute subpostmasters. In an email to Angela van den Bogerd, a former executive, Singh highlighted the need to protect the Post Office’s brand and reputation as one of the reasons for pursuing prosecutions. However, when asked about the specific business purposes behind the prosecutions, Singh claimed to be unaware.

Despite his senior position at the Post Office, Singh distanced himself from decision-making and portrayed himself as merely following orders, comparing himself to a collector of paperwork for other teams.

The public inquiry examines the prosecution and bankruptcy of numerous subpostmasters who were falsely blamed for accounting shortfalls based on evidence from the Horizon system. The system’s error-prone nature has since been proven, leading to the overturning of nearly 100 wrongful convictions. Computer Weekly first exposed the scandal in 2009 and has been covering it since.

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