Timothy Brentnall

Year conviction was overturned:
2021

Timothy Brentnall was a former sub-postmaster from Roch, Pembrokeshire. He was one of many former sub-postmasters and post-mistresses (SPMs) 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.

During an audit in 2009 a discrepancy at his branch was found and a shortfall of £16,606.45 was identified based on Horizon records, and an investigation began at his post office branch.

Mr Brentall had told the auditors that he had received “transaction corrections” 18 months prior, and he had slowly been repaying the money, whilst hiding the balance of the shortfall pending full repayment. As it did not occur to Mr Brentnall or his legal team to challenge the integrity of Horizon, his solicitors and barrister advised him to plead guilty in order to avoid a prison sentence.

Mr Brentnall pleaded guilty to one count of fraud on the 29th June 2010, in the Crown Court at Swansea. As a result, he received an 18-month suspended sentence with 200 hours of community service.

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 since the Horizon data was not reliable, the convictions of Mr Brentnall and other SPMs should be quashed.

Impact of Conviction: It took Mr Brentnall 16 years to clear his name. Although, Mr Brentnall knew he was innocent, he and his family were desperate to make up for the missing funds. His parents took out a loan to pay the alleged debt. “It was horrific. I felt totally alone and helpless.” The conviction made it impossible for him to find work, and he felt as though others were judging him. “I didn’t want to go to the village pub because people were talking and saying: ‘He says he hasn’t done anything, but he’s pleaded guilty, so there’s no smoke without fire’. “I lost sleep for a number of years, lost friendships, and all because people didn’t believe what I was saying.”

The conviction also affected his career: “After my work at Mind, there have been several jobs that I’ve applied for in that mental health or social work field that have just been turned down straight away. What the Post Office did to me in 2009 has had a hold on every single thing I’ve been trying to do since.”

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  • Offence: Theft / fraud
  • Jurisdiction: England & Wales
  • County: Glamorgan 
  • Gender: M
  • Offence convicted of: Fraud
  • Year of initial conviction: 2010
  • Year conviction was overturned: 2021
  • CCRC Referral: Yes
  • Post Office Case: Y
  • Link to full case: https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/615fd8362c94e0256f3759e0
  • Retrial: No