Lisa Brennan, who was wrongfully convicted, said being found guilty of theft was the "end" of her world A former Post Office lawyer has apologised for prosecuting a sub-postmaster who was left homeles

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Lisa Brennan, who was wrongfully convicted, said being found guilty of theft was the "end" of her world A former Post Office lawyer has apologised for prosecuting a sub-postmaster who was left homeles

Post by TrueBlueTerrier » ... 28.article

A former in-house solicitor for the Post Office has apologised for her role in charging an innocent woman – but insisted she was not given any information which might have raised earlier doubts about the Horizon IT system.

Teresa Williamson said there were ‘structural problems with the working culture at the Post Office’ which caused the criminal team to be kept in the dark about known problems with the system.

The counting system – since widely discredited – was the basis for the prosecution of hundreds of Post Office workers including Lisa Brennan, the former Huyton counter chief who was left bankrupt, divorced and homeless after being falsely convicted of theft in 2002.

Williamson, appearing at the statutory inquiry today, became the first lawyer to use their evidence session to apologise to one of the victims.

‘I feel absolutely devastated that Ms Brennan was charged and convicted of theft,’ she said. ‘I feel gutted that I was unwittingly part of a horrible miscarriage of justice and am so sorry for the awful impact it has had on her life. I am incredibly glad that convictions have been overturned in this judgment and Ms Brennan has sought compensation for the ordeal that she has been through.’

But Williamson, who left the organisation in 2005, stressed there was nothing more that the in-house criminal team at the Post Office could have done as they were not told about any issues with Horizon. She said the culture of hierarchy at the Post Office prevented information from being shared – indeed, the first she even knew of Horizon issues was when she read a Computer Weekly article about them in 2009.

Williamson said: ‘The Post Office board clearly knew there were problems with the Horizon system and that information was not shared further down to the ordinary lawyers within the criminal team. There were people high up in the Post Office who did know things and again that was not shared… for example people in the company and commercial [legal] teams would not share information unless it was necessary with people in the criminal law team.

‘Then right at the bottom in legal services were the criminal law team. As usual criminal lawyers were kind of looked down on by other lawyers.’

Williamson said she was ‘frustrated’ that issues were not communicated and she had trusted the Post Office to help her apply the law and guidance fairly.

Knowledge of Horizon issues would have changed her approach to prosecutions based on the system data, she said. ‘I have little doubt that in the Lisa Brennan case I would have advised that there was not a realistic prospect of conviction due to issues with the Horizon data had I known them at the time,’ added Williamson.

The solicitor was asked by inquiry counsel Sam Stevens if she had ever felt under pressure from investigators to prosecute cases. Williamson said that in a case pre-dating Horizon prosecutions she had experienced ‘pushback’ from a Post Office investigator when she asked for more analysis on a case.

The inquiry heard that there were two different versions of summary transcript records of investigators’ interviews with Brennan, one version with several elements removed. Williamson did not know which of these was put before the court during the prosecution, at which she was not present.

In the build-up to the court case, Williamson said she had asked what else there was to secure a prosecution against Brennan beyond the Horizon data, having cited what she called ‘deficiencies’ in the evidence. Investigator Steve Bradshaw, whose appearance yesterday was postponed after an issue with Post Office disclosure, provided a memo showing evidence strong enough to secure a conviction.

Williamson said the inquiry had not been given the attendance note of her calls with Bradshaw, or her brief to counsel and any request for advice on the evidence in the case, which would help to explain how the case was put together.
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