There was no proper investigation or concrete evidence of any wrong doing against her. 

At the time of her 15 months jail sentence, she was pregnant. 

The Post Office dates way back to 1660 when it was established by Charles the II. 

‘Post Office Counters Limited’ was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Post Office in 1987. Richard Dyke took over the management until his retirement in 2001. Then a new role was created for David Mills to step into. With declining mail usage, a loss of £102 million occurred in 2006. Many of these sub post offices were run by independent shopkeepers, answerable to the Post office. It was a part of the fabric of British society until this scandal. 

Paula Vennells was appointed as its Chief Executive in 2007 

Seema Mishra was 34 years old in 2010 when she was accused of stealing £74,000 and was convicted for false accounting; she is 47 now – no compensation can bring back the lost years! There was no proper investigation or concrete evidence of any wrong doing against her. At the time of her 15 months jail sentence, she was pregnant. Even when her baby was born in hospital, she was electronically tagged. Her jail-mates were the likes of Rose West and paedophile Venessa George in Bronze field prison. Seema says – “It was horrendous in jail being pregnant in that unhygienic place, it was a nightmare.” 

She also asserted that – even when she first took over the post office in 2005, on the first day of her training it showed a short fall of £80. It happened again on the next day of her training, the books repeatedly failed to tally with her takings. When she flagged it up to the trainer, the response was quite casual, fleeting and irresponsible: 

“The accounts are never exact…” she was told. 

But when it came to her arrest, there was nothing casual about the Post Office’s stance. There was widespread miscarriage of justice in British legal history; nearly 900 sub post masters were convicted, 2000 were accused. Many were coerced into pleading guilty, the likes of Jo Hamilton. Even though she narrowly escaped custodial sentence, thanks to her community-support but nevertheless she could not escape the criminal conviction, she was convicted for doing NOTHING WRONG! But she was instructed never to mention, that – 

‘There was any fault with Horizon system.’ 

Why? What were the post office bosses afraid of? Why did they make sub-postmasters sign – ‘non-disclosure agreements’ if there was nothing to hide? 

Ah yes, another malignant, crafty and wicked thing the post office did was, to maintain a big lie: ‘YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE’ 

I write the above 5-words in Capitals, because it touches a raw nerve in me – In 2009 HDFC’s senior bank manager in India, stole £50k from my account and opened a fraudulent account in ICICI bank, by forging my signatures. The bank kept lying to me – ‘You are the only one, no one else has complained.’ They tried to keep that a secret; because we might have formed an alliance like the sub-posters against the bank. But later, I did find out that there were several other NRIs (Non-Resident Indians), whose money was stolen by the same manager. 

In my mind what the Post Office did was worse than an arm-robbery. It is, how to put it, a white- collared robbery by proxy, using – ‘Digi-thievery’! 

But I am puzzled because I understand a whistle blower allegedly told Michael Rudkin and showed him the computer screen at Fujitsu’s Bracknell office, allegedly saying – “A whole section was devoted to fiddle with the figures by remotely accessing sub-postmasters’ computers.” 

I have no idea if it is true. But if it is, then it seems like an insider job. Not that the sub-postmasters were stealing but in fact it was the post office filling their coffers, showing profits resulting in bonuses?? 

And the mighty Angela van den Bogerd, responsible for handling complaints; pulled a huge smoke screen saying – “Oh no, they were only experimenting, developing…” or some such dribble! 

Paula Vennels was aware of the glitches in Horizon system, but what she told Alan Bates and others: ‘everything was hunky-dory!’ 

But the persecution and prosecution of sub-postmasters continued. 

And, Paula is a priest? How does she sleep at night having sent people to jail and ruining their lives? To top it all, she was honoured. For what? Lying, sending people to their pre-mature deaths? I am so glad she is to return her CBE. 

Oh, I know why, the investigators were

so aggressive in securing convections? Cash incentives of course. For every conviction, he and other investigators were awarded handsomely. 

I remember about 30 years ago I was invited by a friend to visit his pub in Wales. There I met a couple of  Welshmen in their 70s, when they learnt that I was an Indian, they shared their stories with me, when in 1940s they were stationed at Rawalpindi; barely 18-year-olds. They said – “the officer class was always very arrogant and condescending, some were from aristocratic families, we were nothing, they didn’t treat us any better than the way they treated Indians…” 

Isn’t that the age-old story of the colonials and the colonised? Or of the powerful and the powerless. 

Another memory I have is, 20 years ago I was at the till in a Littlewood shop, I picked up 3 or 4 items, I always do my mental arithmetic and had added up the total in my head. The girl at the till asked me for a certain amount. I told her that, she was 96 pence out. She was adamant: 

“The till can never be wrong.” 

I stood my ground and asked her to add it up again, she reluctantly acceded to my request, then looked at me peevishly saying – “Sorry”. At least she accepted her ‘mistake’ and I accepted her apology. 

Why are we under the illusion that computer systems are infallible? After all programmes are written by humans! And to err is human. 

People rely on their GPS’ and end up in a ditch. They leave their brains in the cold storage or is it the freezer? 

Despite the board of directors agreeing that – “there were serious doubts over the reliability of the software.” Yet the Federation of SubPostmasters took no interest in the sub-postmasters’ plight. 

But really, every time some blunder happens, like: Brixton riots, Partygate, MPs’ expenses, now the Post Office fiasco – Select committees and commissions take years, costing the tax-payers millions of pounds, to no end. Not many recommendations get implemented and then – things go quiet…! 

Personally I believe – the matter is much more fishier, which no enquiries may uncover! 

Chaand is a writer,Producer and a broadcaster. Broadcast on

AIR & on BBC world service. She wrote, produced and directed her 1st feature film- THROW OF A DICE. Her new screenplay is – Heritage Reclaimed-about theft of the KohiNoor diamond.  She is busy with its pre-production. She is also busy editing her novel  – Girls Will Laugh. She was also a Labour Councillor.