Postmistress rejects apology from boss who celebrated her wrongful conviction

A sub-postmistress who was wrongly convicted of theft has rejected an apology from the Post Office’s ex-managing director who celebrated her imprisonment.

David Smith congratulated colleagues and said it was “brilliant news” when Seema Misra was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2010 over a £75,000 shortfall in her accounts that was actually caused by the faulty Horizon IT system.

He made a formal apology to Ms Misra, who was pregnant when she was sentenced, at the inquiry on Thursday.

But in an interview with Sky News, Ms Misra said she did not accept the apology, saying: “Yes they are apologising now but they missed so many chances before.”

She also called for prosecutions of those responsible for the Horizon scandal and said the Post Office has still not given her “full and final compensation”.

04:50 PM BST

Inquiry concludes

The inquiry has concluded for the day and will resume at 9.30am on Friday morning.

04:37 PM BST

‘I did nothing to check prosecutions were being done properly’, says Hodgkinson

Former Post Office chairman Sir Michael Hodgkinson has told the Horizon IT inquiry he “didn’t do anything” to check if the business was prosecuting its own people properly.

After Sir Michael said he was not informed during his induction that the Post Office prosecuted its own staff, Sam Stein KC, who represents a number of sub-postmasters, asked: “So when did you learn about the process of prosecution by the Post Office of which you were chair?”

Sir Michael said: “I think that was much later on.”

Mr Stein continued: “And did you say to the people around you ‘that’s a bit of a surprise, I’m a bit surprised we prosecute our own staff, I’d like to know a bit more about it?’”

The witness responded: “No, I didn’t.”

Mr Stein then asked: “Well, you’ve suddenly been made aware that you’re the chair of a prosecution authority… that’s an unusual thing given your business background. What did you do to investigate the Post Office was properly prosecuting its own members?”

Sir Michael said: “I didn’t do anything.”

04:35 PM BST

Ex-Post Office chairman makes ‘unreserved apology’

Sir Michael Hodgkinson has apologised “unreservedly” for his failure to unearth the issues with the Horizon IT system during his time as chairman of the Post Office between 2003 and 2007.

“I have been saddened and appalled at the evidence that’s come out over the last 15 years since I left where so many innocent postmasters and mistresses were unfairly prosecuted under the Horizon system, and as a result suffered the most dreadful experiences and devastating consequences, not just for themselves but for their families,” he told the inquiry.

“I just want to put on record I apologise unreservedly for the fact that while I was chairman of the Post Office I did not discover the problems with the Horizon system, and all I can say is I am very, very sorry for the misery that then subsequently caused.

“So I apologise again unreservedly.”

04:07 PM BST

Post Office ‘made cuts to Horizon in bid to stay afloat’

The Post Office made a series of cost-cutting measures to the Horizon system in 2006 amid worries about its solvency, board minutes shown to the inquiry indicate.

Counsel Julian Blake asked Sir Michael Hodgkinson: “Is a fair interpretation of this that, at this time, the focus was on a cheaper Horizon, one that led to cost savings?”

Sir Michael replied: “I would just add one thing: cheaper and no worse. I don’t think there was any thought that the lower cost was in any way going to degrade the functionality or integrity of Horizon.”

He added that cost-saving measures were “crucial to make the business viable”.

03:48 PM BST

Inquiry resumes

The inquiry has now resumed after a break.

03:44 PM BST

Post Office bosses ‘didn’t tell board about £188k postmistress settlement’

Post Office executives failed to tell the board about a £188,000 out-of-court settlement claim with a sub-postmistress who it had pursued for shortfalls, the inquiry has heard.

Julie Wolstenholme was pursued through the civil courts for £25,000 – before a court-appointed technical expert produced a report in 2003 which said the Horizon system was ‘clearly defective’.

Mrs Wolstenholme eventually reached a settlement with the Post Office – with the inquiry hearing she submitted a claim for £188,000.

It is not known what sum she was eventually paid – but the inquiry heard chief operating officer David Miller was among two other executives who knew about the case.

Addressing Sir Michael, chair Sir Wynn Williams asked: “Going back to Mrs Wolstenhome’s case where she is claiming £188,000 from the Post Office, which in 2003/4 is a substantial amount of money,  I’m intrigued how could that have happened without the board being involved?

Sir Michael said: “I’ve got no idea. I would agree with you: it was a very large sum of money in any day and particularly in those days, I mean you can speculate.”

03:31 PM BST

Inquiry takes a break

The inquiry has taken a break and will resume at 3.45pm.

03:17 PM BST

‘I was never told of 1999 audit warning of Horizon problems’

Sir Michael Hodgkinson has said a former Post Office chief operating officer never told him of concerns about Horizon’s integrity, despite auditors warning of problems during a 1999 trial.

David Miller, who sat on the board in 2003 when Sir Michael was chair, received a letter from auditors Ernst and Young in August 1999 which detailed “certain accounting integrity issues”.

The letter cited a control test which raised concerns about the “ability of Post Office Counters Ltd to produce statutory accounts to a suitable degree of integrity”.

Counsel Julian Blake asked: “During your enquiries into Horizon or at any time, did anybody tell you about the history of the acceptance process and matters such as this concerns about data integrity during that period?”

“No, never,” replied Sir Michael.

03:05 PM BST

Post Office chairman looked into Horizon ‘limitations’ in 2003

Board minutes from 2003 show how Sir Michael Hodgkinson, the Post Office’s then chairman, had expressed a “particular interest” in Horizon.

They read: “The chairman expressed a particular interest in furthering his understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the Horizon system.

“Meetings would be arranged with the appropriate managers to provide the chairman with a detailed overview.”

When asked why this was, he told the inquiry: “I by that time had formed, based on all the conversations and visits that I’d had, [a view] that in fact Horizon was a well regarded well-performing system.

“However, we were just about to launch into a whole new array of new products and it didn’t necessarily mean for me, coming into the business, that in fact the system was first of all capable of adapting to those new products and secondly was it suitable for those products?”

02:59 PM BST

Horizon concerns would have gone to ‘risk and compliance committee’

The inquiry is being told of the risk and compliance committee which Sir Michael Hodgkinson set up while at the Post Office.

Mr Blake asked: “If there were concerns about Horizon problems, with the integrity of Horizon, was this the committee they would have been brought to?”

Sir Michael said: “It would certainly have been one of the committee, I think if people had thought there were big problems with Horizon they would have first to board, but they could have also, should also have come to the committee.”

02:49 PM BST

I was ‘never made aware’ of Horizon prosecution concerns, says Hodgkinson

Sir Michael Hodgkinson has told the inquiry he was “never made aware” of concerns about prosecutions using evidence from Horizon or concerns about problems with the software itself.

“I was not made aware of those,” he said.

He also said the board did not have “direct oversight or involvement with the legal department”.

Asked if there was a gap in relation to the oversight of the Post Office’s legal department, he said: “I think there was and I think that was part of the fact that some of the functions remained central.”

02:36 PM BST

Post Office’s solvency a ‘constant theme’

Sir Michael Hodgkinson has said the solvency of the Post Office was a “constant theme throughout” his period as chairman.

“Traditional product streams” were “dying”, according to the former chair, for example, pensions would start to be paid into bank accounts rather than be collected at Post Offices.

02:31 PM BST

Sir Michael Hodgkinson hoped Alan Cook would become CEO

Sir Michael Hodgkinson has told the inquiry that the board “had hoped” Alan Cook, formerly an independent non-executive director of the Post Office, would go on to become its chief executive.

He said: “We took Alan Cook on as a non-exec [non-executive chairman] because I thought we desperately needed some real life experience for selling financial services – and also with a little bit of hope that he might become chief executive.”

02:12 PM BST

Inquiry resumes for Sir Michael Hodgkinson’s evidence

Next to give evidence is Sir Michael Hodgkinson, the former chair of Post Office Ltd and former senior non-executive director of Royal Mail Holdings plc.

Counsel to the inquiry Julian Blake will question Sir Michael.

Sir Michael Hodgkinson arrives at the inquiry earlier on Thursday
Sir Michael Hodgkinson arrives at the inquiry earlier on Thursday - Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

02:11 PM BST

There must be prosecutions for the scandal, says Misra

Seema Misra has called for prosecutions of those “responsible for the scandal” in an interview with Sky News.

“Of course, definitely,” she said. “We knew that there’s a Government cover-up as well when the Horizon [scandal] came out.

“Each and every single person who is responsible for the scandal, either Government, Post Office, Fujitsu, Royal Mail – we need to put them behind the bars. They have a lot to answer for. Full and final compensation for each and every victim and proper accountability.

“When we have proper accountability that might help us to put our minds to rest but we need to show the law is equal for everybody.”

02:10 PM BST

Misra: I still have nightmares about my prosecution

Seema Misra has said she still has nightmares about her wrongful 2010 prosecution for a £75,000 shortfall in her Post Office branch’s accounts.

“I was naive, I thought, like, it will be all fine,” she told Sky News. “Why would I be sent to the prison for a crime I’ve never committed.

“It was, ‘Oh look, I will get justice, I will get justice. It was only in November on my eldest’s 10th birthday and being eight weeks pregnant when the judge came back with a verdict [of] imprisonment, that’s when I lost it completely.

“And before that when the jury came back with a verdict of guilty I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, did they even understand the case as well?’ But I still had faith in the system that the judiciary, the law system, that I would get justice. But it was a horrible, horrible time. I’d been waiting for my second pregnancy for nearly eight years and then news came through I was going to trial and we couldn’t even celebrate because we had a trial hanging over our head.

“It was really bad. I’m okay to fight and all that but the sentencing bit, the imprisonment, the four months away from my family, that was the most horrible. It still gives me nightmares.”

02:01 PM BST

Misra yet to receive full compensation from Post Office

Seema Misra is “still waiting for my final compensation” from the Post Office for her wrongful prosecution.

Asked by Sky News if she had been told why there was a delay, she said: “I don’t know. I’ve received some interim payments but no, I’m still waiting for full and final compensation.

“I don’t know what is the hold [up].”

01:57 PM BST

Misra rejects Smith’s apology

Wrongly convicted sub-postmistress Seema Misra has rejected the apology offered by former Post Office managing director David Smith for celebrating her imprisonment in 2010.

Asked by Sky News if she accepted the apology, she said: “No, definitely not.”

Referring to Mr Smith’s evidence that the Post Office saw her prosecution as a “test of the Horizon system”, she said: “How can they do a test on a human being? I’m a living creature and they did mention a test case and then apologising after 14 years, it’s not... I haven’t accepted it.”

She added: “Like all the people who are appearing in the inquiry, I asked them, please accept [that] everyone lied enough. So please for a change can they come in and tell the truth, nothing but the truth. That’s what we need.

“Yes they are apologising now but they missed so many chances before. We had a GLO [compensation scheme], we had my conviction overturned, nobody came that time to apologise. And now they just realise that when they appear in [a] public inquiry they have to apologise.”

01:45 PM BST

Post Office ‘did not prosecute Misra to shore up Horizon’

David Smith has denied that pregnant sub-postmistress Seema Misra was prosecuted as a way of “shoring up” the faulty Horizon system.

Flora Page, on behalf of a number of sub-postmasters, asked Mr Smith: “In the aftermath of the Ismay report, this trial of Seema Misra was being actively used by Post Office as part of your campaign to claim that Horizon was robust, wasn’t it?”

The witness replied: “I don’t believe so, no.”

Ms Page continued: “You were deliberately closing your eyes to problems with integrity of Horizon weren’t you?” Mr Smith said: “No.”

Ms Page then asked: “And you were encouraging your staff to pursue a trial as another method of shoring up a problem system which knew had serious question marks over it.”

Mr Smith responded: “Absolutely not, as I said to you before the Seema Misra case started long before I joined the business.”

01:38 PM BST

‘I did not know about bug before Misra’s trial’

David Smith has denied having knowledge of a Horizon bug shortly before the trial of pregnant sub-postmistress Seema Misra.

Flora Page, on behalf of a number of sub-postmasters, said the inquiry had seen a document which shows a bug, known as the receipts and payments mismatch bug, was discussed – and that a way of rectifying the bug was to remotely alter branch accounts.

She asked the witness: “What sort of culture were you presiding over where a legal department receives evidence of a bug in a trial which was about Horizon and they do not disclose that bug?”

Mr Smith replied: “Firstly to say that the only reason why I know about the bug and mismatch report is because it was presented to me in the bundles that I have seen, so at the time I was unaware.

“It’s also fair to say that it was not pulled out in the Ismay report as one of the Horizon bugs – the others were listed but it was not so I was not aware of it.

“I did not know until you just told me that Mr Jarnail (Singh) had the information you have laid out at the time that he had it.”

01:28 PM BST

Smith ‘shocked and appalled’ about knowledge of bugs

David Smith said he is “shocked and frankly appalled” at claims the Post Office knew of faults in the Horizon IT system while prosecuting a pregnant sub-postmistress, whose conviction has since been overturned.

Barrister Flora Page, speaking on behalf of a number of sub-postmasters, said the Post Office legal team had become aware of the software’s faults but continued with the prosecution of sub-postmistress Seema Misra anyway.

Mr Smith said: “I am shocked and frankly appalled if that is in fact the sequence of events, and I didn’t know about it.”

Ms Page had earlier asked inquiry chairman Sir Wyn Williams to give Mr Smith a warning about self-incrimination before asking questions of the witness.

After Sir Wyn gave the warning, Ms Page said: “I don’t propose to go over the (Ismay) report in any greater detail, but in short, the first question I ask is whether you deliberately had your team produce a report for you which would cover up the fact that you knew and everyone in your senior leadership team knew that Horizon’s integrity was very much in doubt and that you wanted to cover that up.”

Mr Smith replied: “No, absolutely not.”

01:19 PM BST

Inquiry adjourns for lunch

The inquiry has now adjourned for lunch until 2.05pm.

01:01 PM BST

Smith apologises to Seema Misra

David Smith has apologised to Seema Misra and her family for the substantial upset an email caused in which he appeared to celebrate her conviction.

The sub-postmistress was pregnant when she was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2010 – a decision which the Post Office managing director described as “brilliant news” in an email to colleagues.

Mr Smith said: “First of all I’d just like to palace on record an apology to Seema Misra and family because of the way this has been perceived and portrayed subsequently and looking at it though their eyes rather than through mine, you can see that it may have caused substantial upset and I really do apologise for that.”

Mr Smith told the inquiry that the email reflected what he “generally” did in business by thanking his team.

He added: “In the benefit of hindsight and looking through the 2024 lens not the 2010 lens at best from Seema Misra’s perspective, you can see this is really poorly thought through – and I do apologise again for that.”

12:53 PM BST

Trial of pregnant sub-postmistress was ‘successful Horizon test’

David Smith has said the conviction of a pregnant sub-postmistress was seen as a successful “test of the Horizon system”.

In his witness statement, Mr Smith said that following the August 2010 publication of the Rod Ismay report he did “not think that we thought that there was any merit in commissioning a further report by an IT expert or a forensic accountant or similar to test the reliability of Horizon.”

He described the report’s position as “clear-cut” and said there was “nothing in it which suggested” the Post Office should investigate Fujitsu or Horizon Further.

When questioned on this, he referred to the conviction of Seema Misra as affirming this decision.

Mr Smith told the inquiry: “As we now know wrongly, but at the time, we saw the Seema Misra case as a test of the Horizon system and it had come through that.”

12:47 PM BST

Inquiry resumes

The inquiry has now resumed.

12:44 PM BST

I commissioned report to rebut challenges to Horizon, Smith concedes

Mr Smith has conceded that the report’s purpose was “largely” to “provide assurance” for the Post Office on the “why Horizon was robust”.

An email written by information security lead Sue Lowther sent to Mr Smith and other senior staff, including then-head of criminal law Rob Wilson read: “As was discussed on the conference call and taking into account Rob’s comments, to confirm that we are looking at it as a ‘general’ due diligence exercise on the integrity of Horizon, to confirm our belief in the robustness of the system and thus rebutt any challenges”.

Addressing Mr Smith directly, inquiry chair Sir Wyn Williams said: “So that I’m absolutely clear about this, there were a number of reasons already held in senior levels of the Post Office as to why horizon was robust, and what you were asking him [Rod Ismay] to do in effect was to reduce those into writing in one document so that everybody know what they were?”

“Largely yes,” Mr Smith replied.

12:38 PM BST

Inquiry takes break

The inquiry has taken a break for “a few minutes at least”, Sir Wyn Williams, its chair, has said.

12:29 PM BST

I asked for ‘honest review’ of Horizon

David Smith has claimed he would have asked for an “honest view” which was not “one-sided” when he commissioned a report into the robustness of Horizon in 2010.

Former Ernst and Young auditor Rod Ismay previously agreed with inquiry counsel Jason Beer KC when asked if he was “Only asked to present one side of the coin”, telling the hearing: “The task I was given was: ‘What are the reasons for assurance?’”

Asked what instruction he would have given Mr Ismay, Mr Smith said: “I would have said that the [business] team have requested that we pull together a stress test report summary report to review why and how we consider our Horizon system to be robust.”

He added that he would have said: “The board wants an honest view – it doesn’t want a view that is one-sided.”

Mr Smith went on to reject Mr Ismay’s previous testimony to the inquiry in which he said Mr Smith commissioned him to come up with a “counter-argument” to the sub-postmasters’ claims that they had been wrongly convicted.

12:16 PM BST

Smith did not investigate Horizon when MPs asked questions

In July 2010, Priti Patel submitted a written parliamentary question asking Vince Cable, the-then business secretary, asking “what his most recent estimate is of the cost to postmasters and sub-postmasters of errors in the Horizon operating system; and if he will make a statement”.

Sir Ed Davey replied, asking David Smith to respond directly to Ms Patel. Sam Stevens, counsel to the inquiry, asked Mr Smith if he “made any particular investigations in response” to the MP’s question.

“Not specifically in response,” Mr Smith replied.

The response to Ms Patel also included a “template” paragraph that had also been sent to Brooks Newmark, another Tory MP, which Mr Smith admitted was “clearly quite shocking”.

12:02 PM BST

My staff read and answered my post, says Smith

David Smith has said he “did not deal” with letters sent to him directly and “cannot recall” reading correspondence sent to him by a Horizon victim.

Sub-postmistress Pamela Stubbs wrote to Mr Smith in June 2010 to ask him to “intervene” after seeing thousands of pounds of unexplained shortfalls on her account.

It read: “I sincerely hope that you will be able to intervene in this matter, since I am of the opinion that no one will actually look at Horizon in an impartial way unless directed by a person of authority at the top of Post Office Ltd.”

The letter was acknowledged by a member of the “executive correspondence team”, which Mr Smith said in his statement, “were set up to answer all complaints and they would have enquired with the relevant departments to understand the issue and draft a response.”

He added: “If appropriate, the answer might appear on my desk to cast an eye over but this did not always happen.”

11:59 AM BST

Pictured: Jo Hamilton arrives at the inquiry

Jo Hamilton, a sub-postmistress wrongly convicted of false accounting, arrives at the inquiry
Jo Hamilton, a sub-postmistress wrongly convicted of false accounting, arrives at the inquiry - Paul Grover for The Telegraph

11:51 AM BST

Smith: ‘Not sure’ if I discussed Horizon with Sir Ed Davey

David Smith has said he “can’t be sure” if he discussed Horizon with Sir Ed Davey when he met the then-new postal affairs minister in June 2010.

Sam Stevens, counsel to the inquiry, asked: “Do you recall if you discussed the Horizon IT system at this meeting?”

Mr Smith replied: “I can’t recall specifics of this meeting in great detail.”

Referring to a record of minutes which does not mention the software, Mr Smith added: “To be fair, I mean the minutes there probably give you the summary of the key things that were discussed. I think it’s possible that we could have discussed it but I can’t be sure.”

Sir Ed, now the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was postal affairs minister between 2010 and 2012 as part of the coalition government.

11:40 AM BST

Post Office board were ‘distracted’ from Horizon issues

David Smith has said “concern” about the banking crisis and the separation of the Royal Mail Group from the Post Office meant its board was “not as focused as we could and should have been on the Horizon issues”.

The former Post Office managing director told the inquiry in his witness statement: “In the period I was there, it was a time when there was growing concern around the separation of the business, coupled with a banking crisis which had the potential to bring down the group.

“These were incredibly weighty matters and my priorities at the time were on the survival of the business.

“Because of this, maybe the Board were not as focused as we could and should have been on the Horizon issues.”

11:33 AM BST

Post Office ‘institutionally biased against investigating Horizon errors’

David Smith said he believed there was an “institutional bias” not to investigate the faults that sub-postmasters were saying the Horizon system had.

In his witness statement to the inquiry, Mr Smith said: “Looking back, I think that there was an institutional bias to not interrogate further what was being said by SPMs [sub-postmasters] and the public about Horizon.

“Looking back, there were potential opportunities missed at the time of the (Rod) Ismay report to dig deeper, or to consider an external investigation.”

11:30 AM BST

Inquiry resumes

The inquiry has now resumed after the break.

11:15 AM BST

Inquiry breaks until 11.25am

The inquiry has taken a break and will return at 11.25am.

11:14 AM BST

Smith apologises for celebrating pregnant sub-postmistress’s imprisonment

David Smith has said he is “hugely apologetic” for appearing to celebrate the news that a pregnant sub-postmistress had been imprisoned.

Seema Misra was sentenced to 15 months in prison in 2010 after being wrongfully blamed for a £74,000 shortfall in her accounts.

In an email sent to Post Office executives including Paula Vennells, the former managing director wrote: “Brilliant news. Well done. Please pass on my thanks to the team.”

Yet in his witness statement published today, Mr Smith wrote: “However, knowing what I do now, it is evident that my email would have caused Seema Misra and her family, substantial distress to read and I would like to apologise for that.”

Mr Smith said his comment of “brilliant news” was in relation to Horizon being “proved to be robust following the testing of evidence in the trial”.

He added: “I would absolutely 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.”

11:08 AM BST

Smith: ‘I am partly to blame for Horizon scandal’

David Smith has suggested he is partly to blame for the Horizon scandal – telling the inquiry it was “very sad” that he did not flag the risk of conducting prosecutions “in-house”.

In his witness statement, the former Post Office managing director wrote of how the “the practice of prosecuting those who have demonstrably been shown to have stolen” from the Post Office were “already well-established long before” his arrival.

Mr Smith added: “I cannot recall thinking that any risk or compliance issues arose from POL [Post Office Ltd] undertaking this role, but with the benefit of hindsight, and in light of the wrongful prosecutions, I can see the inherent risks in the prosecutions taking place ‘in house’ and not by an independent enforcement authority.”

When asked about why he didn’t identify those risks at the time, Mr Smith said: “Well, with hindsight it’s obviously very sad because, had we identified those risks, we might have been able to put in place better control mechanisms, better inspection mechanisms of governance and we didn’t.”

Counsel to the inquiry Sam Stevens asked: “And to what extent did you accept responsibility for not identifying that risk?”

Mr Smith said: “I certainly think I am a part of it. As I said the structures were there before I came.

“They were certainly not changed while I was there and along with the rest of the executive team, we did review the risk registers, we didn’t flag  this as a potential new risk to think about.

“But ultimately I managed that process.”

11:00 AM BST

Second version of Horizon ‘had problems in 2010’

David Smith has told the inquiry he was aware of problems with the roll-out of Horizon Online, a second version of the accountancy software that was first used by the Post Office in 2010.

The inquiry has been shown documents from Mr Smith’s early tenure which showed concerns about the new software.

Mr Smith told the inquiry that by the time the Fujitsu system had been rolled out to “around 600 branches” some were experiencing problems like “freezing screens” which affected trading.

He added: “We were all very aware that if we could not fix that problem relatively quickly, we would have to rollback to the legacy system.”

10:58 AM BST

Paula Vennells told me Horizon was ‘tamper proof’, says Smith

Paula Vennells told the Post Office’s then-managing director that the Horizon IT system was “pretty much tamper-proof”, the inquiry has heard.

David Smith said Ms Vennells, its chief executive, and Susan Crichton, its most senior in-house lawyer, were among those who assured him Horizon was not faulty – despite what prosecuted sub-postmasters were claiming.

He said he was “made aware of some of the challenges that Horizon had encountered through my briefing into the business” after he joined in April 2010.

When asked what he had been told about the issues, Mr Smith said: “I think it was along the lines of what eventually comes out in the (Rod) Ismay report, in other words the system’s pretty much tamper-proof.

“We’ve got strong records. We’ve got independent security going round checking and balancing, and the court cases that we’ve had have been largely successful. So it was that kind of level, rather than anything more detailed.”

10:50 AM BST

‘I was not told of Horizon defects before I joined’

David Smith has said he was not told about complaints made by prosecuted sub-postmasters about defects in the Horizon IT system before he joined the Post Office in April 2010.

Sam Stevens asked whether it was the case, as Mr Smith had said in his witness statement, and he replied: “Yes.”

Mr Stevens then asked when he became aware of the complaints.

“I can’t be certain but it would have been relatively early on [after my appointment], probably through the briefing processes,” Mr Smith said. “But I can’t be certain about that.”

He added that he assumed there would be no “significant defects” in the Horizon system because it had been in use since 1999.

10:44 AM BST

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10:22 AM BST

Smith: I had ultimate responsibility for Post Office operations

David Smith is being asked about how the executive team – which included him, Paula Vennells, the Post Office’s head of legal and others – worked.

He told the inquiry that the group met around once a week to discuss day-to-day operations and once a month to discuss longer-term strategy.

Mr Stevens, the counsel questioning him, asked: “As managing director would you accept that ultimate executive accountability for the operation of Post Office Ltd rested with you?”

“Yes,” replied Mr Smith.

10:05 AM BST

David Smith’s evidence begins

David Smith, the Post Office’s managing director between April and December 2010, has now started to give his evidence to the inquiry.

10:01 AM BST

David Smith prepares to give evidence

David Smith has sat down to begin taking evidence. He will be questioned by counsel to the inquiry Sam Stevens.

09:54 AM BST

Everything you need to know about the Post Office Horizon scandal

The row over the Post Office scandal and the hundreds of victims who are yet to be fully compensated has dominated headlines.

What caused the Post Office scandal? What did sub-postmasters do when they found out they had shortfalls?

How many sub-postmasters have had their convictions overturned? And who has received compensation?

Click here for all the answers to questions you may have about the Horizon row, which still shows no sign of abating.

09:46 AM BST

Paula Vennells blamed problems with Horizon on ‘temptation’ of postmasters to take money from tills

Paula Vennells blamed Post Office accounting shortfalls on the “temptation” of sub-postmasters and not the Horizon software, the inquiry heard from witnesses.

In a damning day of evidence, the former Post Office chief executive was also accused of failing to disclose at least 16 cases that appeared to undermine the reliability of Horizon software at least two years before the company stopped prosecuting sub-postmasters in 2015.

Lord Arbuthnot, the Tory peer, and Sir Anthony Hooper, the retired High Court judge, were the latest witnesses to address the public inquiry into the scandal of more than 900 sub-postmasters being wrongfully prosecuted for shortfalls that did not exist.

Read the full story here

09:34 AM BST

Post Office scandal timeline

You can remind yourself of how far this stretches back by scrolling through our timeline below.

09:22 AM BST

What happened at the inquiry yesterday?

On Wednesday, the inquiry heard from Lord Arbuthnot, the Tory peer who campaigned alongside the wronged sub-postmasters, and Sir Anthony Hooper, the retired High Court judge who was appointed to chair a Post Office mediation scheme for sub-postmasters who believed they had been wrongly convicted.

Lord Arbuthnot accused Gordon Brown’s Labour Government of avoiding responsibility for responding to sub-postmasters’ claims of wrongful prosecution before it lost the 2010 general election.

The peer also told the inquiry about a meeting he had in June 2012 with Post Office executives and other MPs, in which Paula Vennells, its then chief executive, blamed accounting shortfalls on the “temptation” of sub-postmasters and not the Horizon software.

The inquiry also heard of 16 examples of cases which undermined the argument made by Ms Vennells that “every case taken to prosecution that involves the Horizon system” had been found in favour of the Post Office.

Sir Anthony Hooper added that he had told Ms Vennells “again and again” that the Post Office’s case against the sub-postmasters “didn’t make sense”.

09:14 AM BST

Who is giving evidence today?

Giving evidence this morning is David Smith, who was the Post Office’s managing director between April and December 2010.

During his tenure, pregnant sub-postmistress Seema Misra was handed a 15-month sentence after being blamed for £74,000 worth of shortfalls.

It was previously reported that Mr Smith celebrated her imprisonment in an internal email which described the update as “brilliant news”.

The inquiry will then hear this afternoon from Sir Michael Hodgkinson, who became the first chairman of Post Office Ltd when he took on the role in April 2012.

Sir Michael was previously a director of the Post Office between May 2003 and August 2007, having also been an executive at Land Rover, the Bank of Ireland and BAA plc, the former operator of Heathrow Airport.

09:09 AM BST

Welcome to the live blog

Good morning and welcome to The Telegraph’s coverage of the Post Office inquiry, which starts at 10am.

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