Tatford sorry, Singh slighted.

A barrister whose work acting for the Post Office helped to wrongly convict a pregnant postmistress and ruin her family has told RollOnFrday he "played an unwitting role" in the scandal after renewed attention was paid to his conduct.

As well as being disgraced, Seema Misra’s family wealth was “obliterated” by the unfair trial and her family “lost almost everything”. As a convicted person, she was excluded from the group litigation led by Alan Bates and received only a “meagre” ex gratia payment, said counsel for the Post Office Inquiry.

Warwick Tatford, a barrister at Foundry Chambers, was credited during his appearance at the Inquiry last November as one of the few witnesses to apologise for his role in Misra’s ordeal. Certain other lawyers involved have been less willing to accept blame.

But that didn’t prevent Inquiry counsel Jason Beer KC taking Tatford to task over his handling of the Post Office’s pursuit of false accounting charges against Misra in 2009, and her wrongful prosecution for theft of £74,000.

During the case, Misra’s defence team's request for data from the flawed Horizon IT system covering the period of the alleged theft was rejected by Tatford, who commented, “if one requested and received every piece of paper for West Byfleet, we would probably fill this room”.

“I appreciate, with hindsight, that’s the wrong approach”, Tatford conceded in his witness statement for the Inquiry, although he also defended his actions. “The correspondence in this case was very demanding indeed", he said, and "some of the disclosure requests were so wide we had to give disclosure of every time there’s been an investigation at a Post Office”.

Beer’s interrogation of Tatford focused on his handling of Gareth Jenkins, an engineer at Horizon creator Fujitsu.

Jenkins was never provided with a written document setting out his obligations as an expert witness, and his report did not include various components required by the Criminal Procedure Rules to ensure it was objective.

“I did know they were in the Criminal Procedure Rules”, said Tatford, but “I quite clearly didn’t consider them properly”.

Quizzed as to why Jenkins’ duties weren’t set out in writing as required, Tatford told Beer, “What I can see now is that, because of the difficulties of timing and various other stressors within the case, I tried to cover the points myself by explaining things orally when that simply isn’t the safe way to proceed, and I was in error in that”.

His testimony shone a harsh light on the conduct of Post Office solicitor Jarnail Singh. Somewhat undermining the CPR edict that expert witnesses must be made aware of their obligation to be impartial, Singh was revealed to have told Jenkins, “Just a reminder you are an Expert for Fujitsu. You’ll be giving evidence in Court. The judge and jury will be listening to you very carefully and a lot will hang on the evidence.”

Asked at the Inquiry whether this was “risible”, Tatford acknowledged that as an instruction for an expert witness to act in an independent and unbiased manner, Singh’s approach was “completely wrong”.

“This isn’t what I intended to happen”, said Tatford. “That’s not an excuse because, as far as I’m concerned, I was prosecution counsel in the case, I have responsibility for the case as a whole, and this is – I have obviously failed to ensure that there’s an atmosphere where an expert can be properly instructed, and wrong decisions are being taken”.

Tatford didn't recall being made aware of Singh's "disastrous" approach. “I don’t think I was aware of this sort of instruction. I like to think if I’d seen it, I would have done my very best to resolve this and put an end to this but it’s very troubling reading.”

But the barrister was presented with evidence that he had also wrongly sought to shore up the Post Office’s position, in his case by pushing Jenkins to remove concessions to the other side from his draft witness statement.

When Jenkins wrote in his draft statement that “there doesn’t appear to be a thorough justification” for the possible issues with Horizon itemised by defence expert witness Professor Charles McLachlan, Tatford responded, “I wonder if you might be prepared to use slightly stronger wording. There doesn’t appear to be any evidential basis for the hypotheses at all”.

In another section of his draft witness statement, Jenkins wrote, “I support [Professor McLachlan’s] finding regarding discrepancies in cash in almost every period”. Tatford responded, “Your agreement might be interpreted as a concession that the Crown’s case is entirely flawed. Discrepancies are always to be expected”.

In several instances Tatford appeared to lead Jenkins to harden his position in his witness statement, said Beer.

When Jenkins ventured that “I can’t [100%] rule out” that screen calibration errors in Horizon had caused issues, Tatford responded, “Please rephrase. This will be taken as a damaging concession”.

Speaking at the inquiry, Tatford told Beer, “I think what I was doing was just trying to clarify matters and make things clear but I do agree that I’ve overstepped the mark there”.

In some instances Jenkins firmed up his testimony in line with Tatford’s prompts, although in others he pushed back, prompting Beer to put it to the barrister that “you were trying to materially alter the content of Mr Jenkins’ evidence and, in some cases, you succeeded and, in other cases, he stood his ground; would you agree?”

Tatford responded, “I was asking him to focus on issues as I understood them to be, albeit the distinction is quite narrow. Looking at it now, if I was doing it now, I wouldn’t have done it in that way”.

Tatford told the inquiry, “When I said I felt ashamed, I do. I actually feel worse because it’s become quite clear in the way that the evidence has properly been put before me that there are many failings that I had ignored on my part and I perhaps created a rosier vision in my memory that wasn’t really there”.

“I apologise unreservedly for what happened”, he added. “I have changed my view. It’s taken me a long time. I suspect I was in denial for a long time, perhaps in a self-justificatory way, and I apologise for that.”

Tatford told RollOnFriday, “I said in my witness statement to the Inquiry that I was sorry Seema Misra had not received a fair trial and that I played an unwitting role in this".

"I submitted a 61-page witness statement to the Inquiry, setting out the background to the case very fully. I answered in good faith all the questions put to me. It is important my evidence is considered in its entirety and not quoted selectively or taken out of context. It would clearly be inappropriate for me to comment further whilst the Inquiry is ongoing and witnesses are still to be questioned", he told ROF.

He added, "It is worth noting that since I gave my evidence to the Inquiry, the Bar Standards Board has issued a statement saying, ‘We do not consider the evidence presented at the Inquiry so far, or the evidence we have received direct, indicates that any members of the Bar present an ongoing risk to the public that requires the BSB to act immediately’".

A spokesperson for the regulator said, “The BSB does not comment as to whether or not it has received any information about potential misconduct by a barrister regardless of how any information comes to our attention”. 

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thecynic 22 March 24 08:34

The man is sincerely sorry ... that his inappropriate behaviours have been placed in the spotlight.

Neutral 22 March 24 09:01

Thecynic, he clearly is sorry and has been frank in his evidence- clearly a mistake on his part as now everyone is criticising him for it.  Why would anyone admit anything at an inquiry if they are going to get criticised repeatedly for it? 

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:12

Still no apology from Womble Bond Dickinson for their role in the Post Office Scandal. 

Puzzled mathematician 22 March 24 09:12

He has admitted to conduct which is so egregious that it brings the profession into disrepute.  

Whether he is sorry now or not, that is mitigation only for his colossal failure to perform his professional duty in an appropriate manner and he should face regulatory and probably criminal scrutiny for that.    The victims of his misconduct went to jail as his misconduct perverted the course of justice.  This is very serious indeed for him and for the profession at large.

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:43

A few years ago I put Womble Bond Dickinson on a panel for a large amount of work. I feel quite awful about it now as I find their behaviour while acting for the Post Office so distasteful. Does anyone know if their instructions have been affected much by this case?

Neutral 22 March 24 09:46

Puzzled Mathematician

He hasn’t done anything of the sort.  You clearly don’t understand how to deal with experts in the context of a criminal trial.  The failure was not to disclose the original statement in the schedule of unused material which is the job of the solicitor.  Instructing the expert is also the job of the solicitor.  
No doubt the inquiry and the BSB will give views in due course but character assassinations of individuals based on short articles is easy for keyboard warriors like you.

Rowley Birkin QC 22 March 24 10:08

It must’ve been nearly 100 years ago I studied the rules of evidence and I never knowingly practised criminal law. And yet I’ve got this nagging thought at the back of my mind that there’s something different about expert witnesses. But I was very drunk at the time.

Ron 22 March 24 11:08

No matter what the profession thinks, this man was actively producing a "False Instrument" a false deposition and a corruption of the facts in this case, by this point Horizon had more holes in it as an accountancy instrument than a colander.  This man/coward knew the consequences of his:

🚩 "Fraud By Abuse of His Dominant Position. 

🚩"Fraud By False Representation. 

🚩" Rewards Given For Improper Performance Of His Contract". 

Those consequences meant the "Total & Utter Destruction & Annihilation Of A Total Innocent Family" to hide a massive Post Office Corporate Accountancy Fraud (Spot The Irony There). This invertebrate barrister took the whole legal profession in to the toilet when he did what he did. Whether you are an upstanding member of the legal profession or as bent as a 9 Bob note and waiting for a cell vacancy in Wormwood Scrubs, there is no defence for this abuse of public and professional trust. And anyone in the legal profession who tries to "GASLIGHT THE PUBLIC" - - - Forget It !!! THEY ARE ON TO YOU, IN A BIG WAY !!!!!! After The Post Office Horizon Scandal even Lawyers don't trust Lawyers ANYMORE. 

For the good people of the legal profession, it's tragic, for the rogues of the legal profession, and there clearly plenty in the shadows, expect loss of liberty every time you step over the line. 


Colin Weeden 22 March 24 13:55

Wasn’t this coaching the witness? I thought that was forbidden in a criminal trial. 

The BSB should take action 

Toby Jugg 22 March 24 14:28

What that boy needs is a plate of pies (plural) and chips (super plural) to cheer himself up 

Paul Slow 22 March 24 14:42

Such derogatory behaviour by professional is quite common in every day life.

Some surveyors, barristers, solicitors members of the medical profession are an absolute disgrace to their profession and should be held accountable just as the same way the female post master was wrongly sent to prising.

ANoN 22 March 24 17:46

How could he say he played an 'unwitting' part in this.  He actively read through the expert witness report and suggested ways to introduce the bias he wanted to see.  

And to say “I don’t think I was aware of this sort of instruction. I like to think if I’d seen it, I would have done my very best to resolve this and put an end to this but it’s very troubling reading.” 

That is how you know someone is lying.  As soon as the '... not as far as I recall ..' comment comes up, they don't know how much you know and so don't want to incriminate themselves but should you have proof they fall back on their poor memory, so no actual lies on their part! 


Human 24 March 24 11:42

Paul Slow is right. This tendentious expert witness testimony happens more often than it doesn't. The party who pays the witness is the party to pick helpful witnesses and call their tune.

You cannot purchase impartiality.

Bates 25 March 24 09:28

waiting for Bates evidence from Any Parsons Wombles . £60 million and ongoing cash cow. Arrogant Andy.

whybesorrywomble 25 March 24 16:57

£60 million plus career as MP Chairman and huge bonuses coming out of ears , what is there to be sorry about? For Wombles Post Office client partner Horizon is the golden goose. We were told to bill EVERYTHING even if thinking about Horizon on the toilet or commuting on the train . The fact innocent people lives were destroyed goes over his head. Just doing his job he says. Most of us know there is much more to it than that. But you enjoy your blood money.

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