UK post office scandal: Pregnant British Indian wrongly jailed, racially classified, says report

Seema Misra, 47, who ran a post office in Surrey, and others were wrongly accused of theft and false accounting between 1999 and 2015 due to a "faulty" computer system called Horizon

Representative image (Photo: IANS)
Representative image (Photo: IANS)


An eight months pregnant British-Indian woman, was among more than 700 former UK Post Office staff who were wrongly targeted, imprisoned, and classified using a "racial slur", according to fresh prosecution documents released to campaigners.

Seema Misra, 47, who ran a post office in Surrey, and others were wrongly accused of theft and false accounting between 1999 and 2015 due to a "faulty" computer system called Horizon.

Now, fresh documents, which came to light through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request obtained by a campaigner, found that suspects, including Misra, were grouped on the basis of their racial features.

Misra was categorised as "Indian/Pakistani Types... ie Asian, etc", The Times reported.

Other categories on the document, thought to have been published between 2008 and 2011, were "N*****d Types", "Chinese/Japanese types" and "Dark Skinned European Types". Misra was sentenced to 15 months in prison for theft in 2010 after the prosecutor accused her of "cooking the books", that is, manipulating financial records, leading to a shortfall of 74,000 pounds. However, it was later found that the missing amount was due to the loopholes in the Post Office's new IT system, Horizon, which managed transactions, accounts and stocktaking. It was not until April 2021 that Misra's conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Expressing her anger at the new revelations, Misra told Sky News: "Now I think, because they had a racist thing in their mind, my case could have been different if I wasn't Indian.

"They might not have suspended me, they might not have taken the case, I don't know. We had to move. We lost everything, to be honest - we lost the business, we lost everything. We lost our dignity, lost our pride, everything."

Misra told The Times that the document is proof that there is corruption at levels. "I definitely believe the Post Office was institutionally racist." The Post Office admitted "abhorrent" racist slur was used to describe suspects in the Horizon scandal.

In response to FOI, a Post Office spokesperson said the organisation did not tolerate racism "in any shape or form" and condemned the "abhorrent" language.

"We fully support investigations into the Post Office's past wrongdoings," the spokesperson was quoted as saying by Sky News. In 2022, a public inquiry began to examine how the post office scandal, also known as Horizon scandal, happened.

It has been described as "the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history". A lot of them like Misra ended up in jail, some became bankrupt trying to repay money, which they did not owe, and four cases of suicides were linked to the scandal, according to media reports.

Misra, who was jailed on her son's 10th birthday told Sky News that she only resisted suicide because she was pregnant with her second child.

The inquiry came after a December 2019 High Court ruling, which ruled that Horizon contained a number of "bugs, errors and defects".

As of now, 85 wrongfully prosecuted people have had their convictions quashed.

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