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Post Office worker, 45, jailed for three years after wrongful conviction for stealing more than £200,000 due to flawed IT system tells Horizon scandal inquiry how his family were 'destroyed' when he was forced into bankruptcy and they 'lost their home'

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  • Harjinder Butoy, 45, ran the Sutton-in-Ashfield post office in Nottinghamshire
  • He was arrested and then jailed for three years and three months in 2008
  • High Court overturned Mr Butoy's conviction along with those of 38 others 
  • Mr Butoy told an inquiry today his family were 'destroyed' by the false conviction




A former subpostmaster whose family was 'destroyed' after he was wrongfully convicted and jailed for stealing more than £200,000 due to flaws with the Post Office computer system has revealed his ordeal at an inquiry today.

Harjinder Butoy, 45, ran the Sutton-in-Ashfield post office with his wife in Nottinghamshire until he was arrested, charged and then jailed for three years and three months in 2008 for stealing £208,000. 

His prison sentence - thought to be one of the largest sentences among the Horizon cases - was accompanied by a £60,000 confiscation order, which forced Mr Butoy to file for bankruptcy. 

Speaking to an inquiry into the scandal today, Mr Butoy said his family were 'destroyed' by the false conviction as he described his 'terrible' ordeal in prison, losing more than six stone as he battled stress 'every day'. 


He said: 'I kept thinking how did I end up here, just thinking about my family. It was the same for them as it was for me - we all got destroyed.' 

Mr Butoy said it was 'awful' for his wife and three children, who had to move in with his parents in Chesterfield after shutting down the business.

Mr Butoy was among more than 700 subpostmasters and subpostmistresses (SPMs) prosecuted between 2000 and 2014, based on information from the Horizon IT system, installed and maintained by Fujitsu.

However, in December 2019 a High Court judge ruled that Horizon contained a number of 'bugs, errors and defects' and there was a 'material risk' that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

The High Court overturned Mr Butoy's conviction along with those of 38 other former postmasters in April last year.



The former subpostmaster said that between 2004 and 2007, his branch had no problems passing the Post Office's audits and was even signed off on an audit without any issues a week before his arrest.

But on April 24 2007, he was detained by Criminal Investigation Department officers after a group of people turned up to his branch to do a security audit and found £208,000 missing.

Mr Butoy said he felt 'shocked', 'confused' and 'ashamed' as customers watched him being taken away by the police.

In September 2008, he faced trial at Nottingham Crown Court where he maintained his innocence and questioned whether the Horizon information was correct but the Post Office argued it was '100% robust'. 

Mr Butoy said when the guilty verdict came in he 'just fell apart' he 'wasn't prepared for it'. He said he ended up filing for bankruptcy as he struggled to pay back the £60,000.

'Everything has just fallen apart for me. I have no confidence in myself anymore,' he said. 'I had a really good reputation with the public and then I just lost it by the click.'

On what he wants from the Post Office now, he said: 'I want somebody to go to prison.'

William David Graham, 53, a former branch manager, said he was diagnosed with depression after being wrongly convicted of falsifying accounts.

The father of two, who had worked his way up through the Post Office since 1992, told the inquiry he used to be 'the life and soul of the party'.

Mr Graham eventually left the Post Office itself to become the manager of the Riverside branch in Sevenoaks.

But shortfalls of £65,000 were incorrectly identified in 2009 and he was charged with theft and falsifying accounts before taking a plea deal in 2011.

After paying back a £5,000 shortfall found in 2004 from his own pocket, Mr Graham then discovered a £50,000 shortfall, which he chose not to report.

'That was my whole salary for a year,' he said. 'That was how I put food on the table for my wife and children.'

Auditors discovered £65,000 missing in the accounts in early 2009 and he admitted to inflating the figure to make the balance look right.

He was offered a plea deal to avoid a custodial sentence in 2011 and was handed a 32-week suspended prison sentence.

'When they said the 32 weeks in prison, the gap before they said it was suspended - I could hear my wife scream,' Mr Graham said, growing visibly emotional as he described the hearing as 'hell'.

Following the ordeal, he said: 'I went to the doctor and I was diagnosed with depression because I just felt worthless.'

Mr Graham added: 'I've got a wife and children at home. I couldn't provide for them.'

On what he wants now, Mr Graham said: 'I just want the Post Office to stand up and say, we knew there's a problem, this is when it started, this is what we didn't do, this is what we should have done and get justice for the people that have gone through this pain.'

The inquiry, which is expected to run for the rest of this year, is looking into whether the Post Office knew about faults in the IT system and will also ask how staff were made to take the blame.

Jason Beer QC, counsel to the inquiry, said during his opening that the ordeal of those affected could be concluded as 'the worst miscarriage of justice in recent British legal history'


Left to right: Kesar Singh (father of Harjinder Butoy), Satya Devi (mother of Harjinder Butoy), Balbinder Butoy (wife of Harjinder Butoy) and Postmaster Harjinder Butoy outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after his conviction was overturned


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  • 1 year later...


Seven Post Office workers of South Asian heritage have told the BBC they believe racism affected the way people were treated in the Horizon scandal.

One of the workers who spoke to BBC Newsnight said: "It felt like they thought that you were a foreigner and you'd robbed them."

The Horizon scandal saw 700 sub-postmasters prosecuted from 1999 to 2015, with some going to prison.

The Post Office says it aims to get to "the truth of what went wrong".

A public inquiry began in February 2021, and will resume on Thursday after breaking for Christmas.

While the scandal has been public knowledge for some time, an ITV drama - Mr Bates vs The Post Office - which aired last week, catapulted the issue back into the spotlight.

The seven people spoken to by BBC Newsnight worked as sub-postmasters during the scandal and say they were accused of false accounting, theft, or fraud due to data from the faulty Horizon IT system.

One man from an Indian background said a member of Post Office staff told him: "All the Indians are doing it. They have relatives so they take the money and send it to them abroad".

Another person of South Asian descent said: "It was like we were dumb because English wasn't our first language, that we struggled to make sense of basic accounting".

Another said of the Post Office staff he dealt with: "It felt like they thought that you were a foreigner and you'd robbed them".

Balvinder Gill told Newsnight his life was destroyed after he was wrongly accused of stealing £108,000 from the Post Office in 2004.

The 45-year-old had a mental breakdown afterwards and was sectioned three times.

In a double blow for his family, in 2009, his mother Kashmir, now a postmistress, was found guilty of stealing £57,000 from the same Oxford branch. Her conviction was overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in 2021.

Balvinder Gill Image caption,
Balvinder Gill had a mental breakdown after being wrongly accused

Mr Gill said: "My parents were spoken to as if they were idiots because they're not white. They were made to feel like they didn't understand the system and that they were stupid".

He describes his parents' experience as "an indirect, oppressive kind of racism".

He said the dynamic felt more skewed than in a standard relationship between an employer and employee.

"It always felt more than that. I know from my parents' experience that whenever they try to explain something, because their English was broken, they were normally just shut down, and I'm certain that was because of their colour".

Former sub-postmaster Vipin Patel, 72, was wrongly accused of fraud in 2011, and had his conviction quashed in 2020. He said he felt "spoken down to" by the Post Office helpline because of his race and accent.

In response to these allegations, Post Office said: "We share fully the aims of the public inquiry to get to the truth of what went wrong in the past and establish accountability.

"It's for the inquiry to reach its own independent conclusions after consideration of all the evidence on the issues that it is examining.

"We are doing all we can to put right the wrongs of the past, including providing full and fair compensation for those affected, and offers of more than £138 million have been made to around 2,700 postmasters, the vast majority of which are agreed and paid."

Warning: This story contains language which readers may find offensive.

In 2022, the Post Office revealed that, of the postmasters it had records for who had been convicted, 316 had provided details on their ethnicity. At least 123 were of black, Asian and minority ethnic background. That's just under 39%.

The exact number of postmasters from a minority background is not known. A recent survey by the Post Office suggested it was more than 43%, but this only drew from a small sample.

One former Post Office employee told Newsnight that it was unfair to label his former employer as racist when many white people were falsely prosecuted too.

Royal Mail data from 2012 shows there were 1,547 Indian sub-postmasters and agents in England and Wales, 401 were Pakistani, nine were Black African, and 3,220 were white British.

Last year, the Post Office apologised after it was revealed it had used racist terms to describe wrongly investigated postmasters as part of the Horizon IT scandal.

A document showed Post Office had used terms like "Chinese/Japanese types", "dark-skinned European types", and "Negroid types".

The Post Office said the document was historic and that it "didn't tolerate any form of racism".

It said: "The language and classifications used in the historical document is completely abhorrent and condemned by today's Post Office".

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