Innocent Chesterfield man caught up in Post Office Horizon scandal speaks after Government announcement

A former subpostmaster from Chesterfield who was caught up in the Horizon Post Office scandal has reiterated his calls for those responsible for it to be punished.

Friday, 17th December 2021, 12:45 pm

Harjinder Butoy’s comments come after the Government announced it had agreed to foot the bill for a compensation scheme for postmasters who were wrongfully convicted of theft and fraud as part of the Horizon saga.

The Post Office said it was unable to cover the payments for the exonerated individuals – so the Government, as the Post Office’s sole shareholder, has confirmed it will pay.

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Chesterfield's Harjinder Butoy outside the Court of Appeal after his conviction was quashed. Picture from Hudgell Solicitors.

In 2008, Harjinder was found guilty of stealing £206,000 from the post office he ran – a crime he did not commit.

The dad-of-three endured 18 months behind bars – and his conviction was finally overturned at the Court of Appeal earlier this year.

He is one of dozens of other Post Office workers to have their convictions quashed and removed from their records after it emerged there were serious flaws with the Horizon IT system used at branches.

Speaking after the Government’s announcement this week, Harjinder said: “Compensation is not going to cover everything – it doesn’t cover the time you spent in prison.

“I was in prison for 18 months but it feels like I’ve been in prison for 14 years because I’ve been fighting to clear my name for so long.

“Someone on the other side needs to be charged for this and sent down.”

Talking to the Derbyshire Times earlier this year after his conviction was quashed, Harjinder said: “My life and my family’s lives have been torn apart by this.

“We’ve been through hell, absolute hell.

“Many other people’s lives have also been destroyed by this disgrace.

“Now people at the Post Office need to be held accountable and sent to jail like I was.”

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said Harjinder and the other exonerated individuals ‘deserve every penny’ in compensation.

He added: “Innocent people had their lives and businesses wrecked, and their reputations shredded.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said the impact of the scandal – which was one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice – on postmasters ‘cannot be overstated’.

The added: “Government is committed to seeing these long-standing Horizon issues resolved, providing financial support for the historical shortfall scheme and for interim compensation payments for postmasters with overturned convictions.

“We are also learning what went wrong through the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, and ensuring something like this cannot happen again.”

A Post Office spokesperson: “While we cannot change the past, it is right that meaningful compensation is provided to victims of the Horizon scandal as fast as possible.”

The Horizon system was first rolled out in 1999 to some post offices to be used for a variety of tasks including accounting and stocktaking.

But from an early stage, it appeared to have significant bugs which could cause the system to misreport, sometimes involving substantial sums of money.

Earlier this year, Lord Justice Holroyde said the Post Office ‘knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon’ and had a ‘clear duty to investigate’ the system’s defects.

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