Margaret White was one of 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. The basis of each of the prosecutions in these cases 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. However, the accounts of a branch post office did not in fact reflect missing cash or stock but was a result of a bug within the Horizon system which caused errors or defects.
During 2005, an audit had led to the accusation that Mrs White was responsible for a total shortfall of £51,039.72. Following subsequent investigations Post Office Limited alleged that she had falsified accounts to hide a further £10,000 shortfall. Mrs White was inexperienced in running the post office’s books and had only received two days of accounting training. She could not explain where the money had gone. During an interview under caution in 2005, Mrs White repeatedly denied having stolen any money. She claimed that she may have made a mistake when physically sending money to Post Office Limited, however further checks showed that Mrs White had sent the correct amount.
At a hearing during 2006, Mrs White pleaded not guilty to two counts of theft and five counts of false accounting. The defence indicated that they wanted a chartered accountant to check the figures and procedures relating to these losses. After discussions between prosecution and defence counsel in 2007, she pleaded guilty to two counts of false accounting, in relation to shortfalls of £28,150 and £10,000 respectively. Mrs White received a sentence of 51 weeks in prison suspended for two years, as well as two years’ supervision and 150 hours of unpaid work and she was ordered to pay £500 towards the costs of the prosecution.
Mrs White’s conviction was quashed based on evidence indicating that the Horizon computer system was faulty, and responsible for incorrectly flagging shortfalls in accounts.
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- Offence: False accounting
- Jurisdiction: England & Wales
- County: Oxfordshire
- Gender: F
- Offence convicted of: False accounting
- Year of initial conviction: 2007
- Year conviction was overturned: 2022
- Post Office Case: Y
- Tried with others: N
- Link to full case: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/R-Post-Office-Limited-v-White-R-Post-Office-Limited-v-Cameron-2022-EWCA-Crim-435-.pdf
- Crown argued case at CofA: N
- Retrial: N