A former Post Office lawyer has admitted to the public inquiry into the Horizon scandal that a celebratory email he sent following a prosecution was ‘at odds’ with his professional duties.

The inquiry heard today that Jarnail Singh, senior lawyer in the Post Office criminal law team, wrote to colleagues following the prosecution in 2010 of Seema Misra with an email titled ‘Attack on Horizon'.

Noting that Misra had blamed shortfalls at her branch on the Horizon IT system he wrote that, given the result, ‘it is to be hoped the case will set a marker to dissuade other defendants from jumping on the Horizon-bashing bandwagon’.

Singh also wrote that the Post Office had been able to ‘destroy’ any argument put forward by pregnant Surrey post-mistress Misra, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for theft and false accounting. She was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

Asked by inquiry counsel Jason Beer KC whether writing this email was at odds with his professional duties as a solicitor, Singh replied: ‘Of course.’

The inquiry heard that Post Office executives replied to Singh that the outcome of the case was an ‘excellent result’ and ‘brilliant news’.

Jarnail Singh

Singh during today's inquiry

Source: Post Office Inquiry

Singh denied that he had seen Misra’s defence as an attack on Horizon, despite his email being titled exactly that. He said the email’s contents had been dictated to him by a ‘collection of people’ and approved by Rob Wilson, then head of the criminal law team.

Singh said he was ‘hurt quite badly’ by Misra going to prison and, when asked if he viewed her case as a chance to stop others ‘bashing Horizon’, replied: ‘Absolutely not. You can ask me 10 times and the answer is going to be no no no.

‘It was not my language, I would not write anything like that,’ he added. ‘I was a traditional old-school lawyer and this sort of thing is not for me.’

The inquiry heard that in 2013 Singh sent another internal email referring to the ‘passing bandwagon’ of Horizon challenges and predicting that ‘when we get a few wins under our belt the Horizon challenges will melt away like the midnight snow’.

Beer asked Singh why he had written that, to which he replied: ‘I don’t know.’

Beer continued: ‘Are you struggling because you realise the crassness of what you wrote and you don’t have a justification?’ Singh said: ‘Not at all.’

Singh said his biggest mistake was believing Horizon was reliable and not questioning evidence that investigators had collected.

The inquiry heard that in 2014, Singh was approached by members of the Post Office's communications team to give some background on the Misra prosecution in response to revived media interest in her case.

Singh replied with a suggested quote which concluded: ‘It is to be hoped the case will set a marker to dissuade other defendants from jumping on the Horizon-bashing bandwagon’. Again he told the inquiry these words did not reflect how he felt about the case. The inquiry heard that the PR person rejected his suggested quote saying it was ‘too emotive for us to use’.

In a fuller summary he subsequently provided for the communications team, Singh wrote that the jury in the Misra case ‘was entitled to reject her evidence as absurd and to conclude that her belated attack on Horizon was nothing but a desperate distraction tactic’.

Singh is due to give further evidence on Friday, with a focus on the build-up to the prosecutions.