'Apologise to my son': Indian-origin woman who was wrongly jailed when she was ‘8 week pregnant’

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An Indian-origin woman, wrongly jailed while she was eight weeks pregnant, rejected the apology from her former boss during a public inquiry into the case she was acquitted in.

Seema Mishra, now 47, was sub-postmistress at a Post Office in England’s Surrey, and was imprisoned over 12 years for allegedly stealing GBP 75,000 from the branch. Her conviction was quashed in April 2021.

Her case gained momentum again after the former Post Office Managing Director David Smith apologised for a congratulatory email he sent after Seema’s conviction during an IT inquiry in London.

“It was intended to be a congratulatory email to the team, knowing that they had worked hard on the case,” he said in written evidence on Thursday.

Smith, apologising for the email, said, “Even if this had been a correct conviction, I would never think that it was ‘brilliant news’ for a pregnant woman to go to prison and I am hugely apologetic that my email can be read as such.”

“However, seeing this email in the light of what I know now, I understand the anger and the upset that it will have caused and sincerely apologise for that,” he added.

Smith also said that Indian-origin woman had been used as a “test case” and the success of the case led to more confidence in the faulty Horizon IT accounting system.

Seema, however, rejected the apology saying no one apologised when she was acquitted, but only now, when the case is in public enquiry.

“I was eight weeks pregnant – they need to apologise to my youngest son. It was terrible. I haven’t accepted the apologies,” Seema told the BBC.

“We had my conviction overturned, nobody came at that time to apologise. And now they just suddenly realised that when they have to appear in a public inquiry, they have to apologise,” she said.

The UK government, which formally owns Post Office, has paid out millions in compensation to hundreds of sub-postmasters – many of whom were from Indian origin– impacted by the faulty Horizon software.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged action in the historic scandal which wrongly accused sub-postmasters of fraud.

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Published: 12 Apr 2024, 10:52 PM IST

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