Tim Burgess 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.
Horizon indicated a shortfall of £7,525.65 in Mr Burgess’s accounts. In interview, he explained that he was unable to explain how the cash shortages had arise. When he was arrested, he told investigators that running three businesses had got on top of him and caused him to enter wrong figures in the accounts. He spent some of his own money trying to resolve the matter. Mr Burgess pleaded guilty to one count of false accounting. He received a community sentence order with an unpaid work requirement of 150 hours. The judge suggested he had been dishonest in order to cover up his incompetence.
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 conviction was 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.
Mr Burgess has spoken about some of the challenges he faced as a result of his conviction: “We nearly lost the house and our daughter felt she had to move over a hundred miles away to complete her sixth form because of the stigma.”< Back to Case Search < Back to Overview Graph
- Offence: False accounting
- Jurisdiction: England & Wales
- County: North Yorkshire
- Ethnicity: White
- Gender: M
- Offence convicted of: False Accounting
- Year of initial conviction: 2011
- Year conviction was overturned: 2021
- CCRC Referral: Y
- Post Office Case: Y
- Tried with others: N
- Link to full case: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Hamilton-Others-v-Post-Office-judgment-230421.pdf
- Crown argued case at CofA: Argued one ground but not the other
- Retrial: N