Previous subpostmaster Seema Misra was expecting when she was jailed for theft as portion of the Article Business scandal. It took 11 years to verify her innocence
When Seema Misra was sentenced to 15 months in jail for theft and bogus accounting at her article office environment, she collapsed in court. “I never know what occurred to me,” says Misra. “I opened my eyes and I was in medical center with sharp pains in my tummy.” She was then taken to Europe’s premier woman prison, in Ashford, Surrey, wherever she was put on suicide observe.
Misra had been convicted by a jury days earlier in November 2010, which had come as a “complete shock”. Self-confident that the truth would prevail, she had refused to plead responsible irrespective of her lawyers’ tips that undertaking so could incur a lighter sentence.
Other than, Misra experienced hardly ever imagined that she would obtain a custodial sentence. The sentencing came on her son’s 10th birthday, and her voice breaks when she recollects declaring goodbye to him that early morning right before attending court docket, persuaded she would before long be house for celebrations. “I promised him, ‘When you occur residence [from school] I’m going to make your preferred curry.’”
What stopped her from using her possess existence, Misra suggests, was the new lifestyle developing inside her. In the course of her trial at Guildford crown court docket, she found out she was pregnant with her next little one immediately after 8 years of striving with her partner Davinder. A devout Hindu, she now sees the timing as divine intervention. “If I hadn’t been expecting I would have undoubtedly killed myself.”
Until eventually the Misras acquired a post workplace in West Byfleet, Surrey, in 2005, their existence was delighted. But from the quite initial working day, even though she was nevertheless getting skilled to use the Submit Office’s Horizon accounting software program, she could not get it to stability the publications. The procedure showed a shortfall of all-around £80, which her trainer shrugged off. “He mentioned it was ‘never penny to penny’.” Misra, formerly a fiscal controller in the Town, was confused: “Why would not it be?”
Around the coming months the shortfalls only grew. Misra was visited by Article Business auditors who uncovered a £4,000 discrepancy and deducted the dollars from her income. Towering more than her, the auditors acted “like bouncers”, she says, warning that her franchise could be eradicated. “They mentioned: ‘We have so a lot of publish places of work that are doing good. It is just [yours] that we have an concern with.’” In early 2008, an audit found a £75,000 shortfall and Misra was suspended and billed.
I strongly feel in optimistic pondering, I understood we would get justice in the conclude
Her incarceration at HMP Bronzefield was “the scariest time”, she says. “There [were a lot of] medicines, self-harming I considered any individual may possibly stab me. I was so worried for my existence and my baby’s well being. When I called property there would be [someone’s] blood all about the jail mobile phone.”
Push stories branded Misra a “pregnant thief” and Davinder was attacked by thugs who shouted racist insults at him, accusing the pair of coming to the British isles “to steal outdated people’s money”. Just after four months, Misra was launched for very good conduct with an digital tag, which she had to put on even though she gave start.
Ostracised by buddies and unable to locate do the job, Misra under no circumstances misplaced her resolve to show her innocence. “I’m a very powerful believer in God and in good pondering, so I knew we would get justice in the conclusion.”
In 2021, Misra’s conviction was lastly overturned. Graphic: Helena Dolby
When his spouse was in prison, Davinder experienced tweeted the then-BBC Radio Surrey journalist Nick Wallis, hoping to drum up tailor made for his taxi enterprise. Wallis experienced flippantly presented to use the support if Davinder experienced any fantastic stories. He replied that he did – and so commenced a lengthy journalistic investigation, in which Wallis would provide to countrywide interest the broad scale of Article Place of work prosecutions of its own team because the Horizon software program was rolled out. In 2019, Misra was one of 557 claimants to whom the Post Workplace agreed to shell out nearly £58m in compensation right after getting rid of a landmark civil litigation scenario (however most of the payout went on legal expenses). In 2021, she was overjoyed when her conviction was at last overturned by the court docket of enchantment and the governing administration declared interim payment of £100,000 to all wrongfully convicted subpostmasters.
In February, Misra gave evidence at a community inquiry into the Submit Office Horizon scandal. She hopes the inquiry will guide to individuals liable for what has been identified as the UK’s biggest miscarriage of justice staying held to account. But for now, she is keen to make the most of each day loved ones daily life. Her eldest son is about to embark on a master’s at a prestigious college, although her child boy is now a cheeky 10-yr-previous. “Even when I was likely through this kind of hardship, just on the lookout at my family’s faces in the morning has often given me such pleasure and I truly feel certainly, genuinely blessed,” claims Misra.
She laughs. “I consider all the things comes about for a explanation. Probably God required some solid kids to come out of this.”
Most important image: Helena Dolby
Life Following: Tragedy, trauma and adversity: life’s worries can be huge, but we can find out from them way too. Our Daily life Immediately after series will take an in-depth glance at how folks have adapted and developed from this kind of issues, and how their working experience can encourage some others.
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