A former Post Office managing director has apologised after appearing to celebrate the conviction of a pregnant subpostmistress who was eventually jailed.

David Smith told the Horizon IT inquiry that he understood understands the “anger and upset caused” by his actions, and acknowledged the “substantial distress” he had caused after telling the Post Office staff the result of Seema Misra’s trial was “brilliant news”.

Mrs Misra began running a Post Office in West Byfleet, Surrey, in 2005, but was suspended in 2008 after being accused of stealing £74,000.

She was handed a 15-month prison sentence on her son’s 10th birthday in November 2010 and was eight weeks’ pregnant when jailed.

Oxford Mail: Former Post Office managing director David Smith giving evidence to phase four of the inquiryFormer Post Office managing director David Smith giving evidence to phase four of the inquiry (Image: Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry/PA Wire)

Mrs Misra’s conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2021.

Following her conviction and sentence, Mr Smith sent an email to managers, including Paula Vennells, asking to “pass on my thanks” to the legal team.

His email read: “Brilliant news. Well done. Please pass on my thanks to the team.”

In his witness statement to the inquiry, Mr Smith said his comment of “brilliant news” was due to the fact he believed “Horizon had been proved to be robust” following Mrs Misra’s trial.

He said: “It was intended to be a congratulatory email to the team, knowing that they had worked hard on the case.

“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.

“My comment of ‘brilliant news’ was in relation to me thinking that it was brilliant news that, in my mind, Horizon had been proved to be robust following the testing of the expert evidence in the trial.

“Even if this had been a correct conviction, 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.

“Regardless of the result, I would have thanked the team for their work on the case.

“However, seeing this email in the light of what I know now, I understand the anger and the upset that it will have caused and sincerely apologise for that.”