Harjinder Butoy

Years in prison:
Year of crime:
Year conviction was overturned:

Harjinder Butoy was one of the “Post Office 39,” a group of former sub-postmasters and post-mistresses who were convicted of offences including theft, false accounting, and fraud, based on information from a computer system called Horizon which suggested that money had gone missing from post-office branch accounts.

Mr Butoy was convicted by a jury of ten counts of theft relating to an alleged shortfall of £206,376.76. He was acquitted of a further count of theft. Mr Butoy was sentenced to 39 months’ imprisonment. A confiscation order was made against him in the sum of £61,294.34, and he was ordered to pay compensation in the same sum to the Post Office.

The basis of each of the prosecutions of the “Post Office 39” was that money missing from the branch account had been a result of theft by the sub-postmaster or mistress, or had been covered up by fraud or false accounting by the sub-postmaster or mistress. On appeal, the Court of Appeal accepted findings that bugs, errors, and defects in Horizon could, and did, cause discrepancies and shortfalls in branch accounts. The court concluded that if the Horizon data was not reliable then there was no basis for the prosecution, and the convictions were quashed. The court noted that failures of investigation and disclosure in the cases prevented the appellants from challenging, or challenging effectively, the reliability of the Horizon data.

Talking about the effects of the case, Mr Butoy said, “My wife and kids had to move in with my parents, the Post Office was shut, we lost the shop and our home and I was declared bankrupt. Our standing in the community, which we had worked so hard to establish and be well-liked and trusted, was destroyed.”

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