Ex-postmaster Seema is finally innocent of £75,000 theft

SEEMA Misra is officially innocent, her conviction for stealing £75,000 from the till at West Byfleet post office quashed by appeal court judges.

Mrs Misra was one of the 39 former sub-postmasters whose criminal records were erased on Friday last week, after they suffered what Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described as an “appalling injustice”.

Seema and Davinder Misra pictured in a selfie she posted on Twitter after the court verdict

She was wrongly prosecuted and jailed because the Post Office failed to accept that massive accounting discrepancies across its network were caused by faulty computer software and not by theft.

Mrs Misra, who ran West Byfleet Post Office for three years until she was suspended under investigation in 2008, told the News & Mail: “I am very, very happy now it’s all over and I can try to get back to a normal life.”

The 45-year-old former financial controller in the City of London added: “The conviction for theft has stopped me applying for and finding jobs, so I can now think about what sort of work I can do.”

Unable to find work, she has been helping her husband Davinder run the taxi business he started before the coronavirus pandemic. Reduced income due to COVID-19 restrictions has made their life even harder.

Mrs Misra, who now lives with her family in Knaphill, is consulting a forensic accountant and her solicitors about making a claim for compensation and the return of the thousands of pounds she put in her till to make up for alleged shortfalls in takings.

Seema at her home in Knaphill

Her lawyers are also considering a claim for malicious prosecution by the Post Office, which took more than 550 sub-postmasters to court for theft and fraud, denying its Horizon accounting system was faulty.

The company did not challenge appeals which were sent to Court of Appeal by the Criminal Justice Review Commission. At least two sub-postmasters killed themselves during their prosecution ordeals and others were admitted to hospital after breaking down.

Mrs Misra said she would have committed suicide in jail had she not been pregnant with her second son and she has suffered from depression. Her husband was racially abused and assaulted after she was charged.

Mrs Misra was jailed for 15 months on her eldest son’s 10th birthday and was released after four months. She said she was ready for former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells and other senior staff from the company to come and speak to her about the nightmare ordeal she suffered.

“They should answer for what has happened, but I don’t think they will,” she said.

Ms Vennells was Post Office chief operating officer from 2009 until she became CEO for seven years from 2012. She was in charge during the prosecutions and refused to accept that they were wrong.

This week, she quit her roles on the boards of the Morrisons supermarket chain and the Dunhelm home furnishings retailer and stopped her duties as an ordained minister at a village church in Oxfordshire.

Neil Hudgell, one of the lawyers acting on behalf of the 39 successful appellants, says true justice can only happen if Post Office officials now face a full criminal investigation themselves.

Boris Johnson tweeted after the court verdict: “I welcome the decision to overturn the convictions of 39 former sub-postmasters in the Horizon dispute, an appalling injustice which has had a devastating impact on these families for years. Lessons should and will be learnt to ensure this never happens again.”

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