'Devastated': Former sub-postmasters react to secret Paula Vennells audio obtained by ITV News

For years, the Post Office denied there was an issue with its Horizon software, only admitting in 2019 that Fujitsu workers could access postmasters accounts remotely , ITV News' Martha Fairlie reports

A former sub-postmaster prosecuted over the Horizon Post Office scandal says he is "shocked" and "devastated" after ITV News obtained audio of a meeting where the former chief executive was told of problems with the computer system.

During the meeting with independent investigators from Second Sight in 2013, Paula Vennells was made aware of allegations that sub-postmaster branch accounts could be accessed remotely, the secret recording reveals.

This is something the Post Office had denied for years.

She was also told by investigators Ron Warmington and Ian Henderson that the company’s position in denying Horizon faults was both “dangerous” and "stupid".

Meanwhile, the Post Office was taking sub-postmasters to court where many were wrongly convicted of fraud.

They were found guilty, partly on the basis that remote access to their branch accounts was not possible, meaning the sub-postmasters were to blame.

Former sub-postmaster Vijay Parekh was sentenced to 18 months after being wrongly convicted of stealing £78,000.

After listening to the audio recordings, Mr Parekh told ITV News he was "shocked and devastated to tell you the truth."

"They have ruined my life and sub-postmasters, all 900 of them and its just taking too long now to get to the bottom of this."

Former sub-postmaster Seema Misra. Credit: ITV News

Another former sub-postmaster Seema Misra was pregnant when she was wrongly jailed for stealing close to £75,000 from the Post Office she ran - due to the faulty Horizon IT system.

She told ITV News: "Now that after listening to the tapes and everything, oh my god they I'm thinking don't care.

"They don't care that I'm pregnant and been sent to prison for a crime I never committed

"But they don't care, they're just good at hiding things."

ITV News has approached Ms Vennells for comment but has not had a response.

In a statement from February, after handing back her CBE, Ms Vennells said: “I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the Inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

“I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: The statutory public inquiry, chaired by a judge with the power to question witnesses under oath, is the best forum to examine the issues raised by this evidence.

"We continue to remain fully focused on supporting the inquiry get to the truth of what happened and accountability for that.”

Second Sight investigators Mr Warmington and Mr Henderson declined to comment, stating they are core participants in the Post Office inquiry and have signed confidentiality agreements.

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