A HUDDERSFIELD sub-postmaster who used Royal Mail money to keep afloat his ailing convenience store has been given a suspended prison sentence for false accounting.
When auditors visited the Newsome Post Office, Huddersfield, in June 2008 sub-postmaster Gurdeep Dhale told them they would find a discrepancy of £60,000.
But a judge heard yesterday that investigators actually found a total loss of nearly £169,000.
Dhale, who became sub-postmaster in July 2005, was initially charged with theft, but at an earlier court hearing his guilty plea to the false accounting allegation was accepted by the prosecution.
Prosecutor Andrew Stranex told Bradford Crown Court that Dhale, 27, was suspended from his post and nine days later he revealed to investigators that there was a third safe at premises which contained £105,000 in cash.
The money was seized by the Royal Mail and yesterday Mr Stranex told Judge John Potter that Dhale would also face further confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The court heard that there was still a dispute as to whether the total discrepancy figure was the Royal Mail’s £169,000 or just £130,000.
But Dhale’s barrister Stephen Wood stressed that his client had never intended any loss would be incurred and he explained how the defendant came under financial pressure after he took over the running of the Costcutter store which incorporated the post office business.
Mr Wood said his client had taken on an expensive lease agreement at a time when another store in the area started selling similar items.
“'Where there had been previously no competition overnight, having taken on an expensive lease with Costcutter, there was suddenly very real competition in this area and it hit the shop hard,” submitted Mr Wood.
He said Dhale, who had no previous convictions, owed significant amounts to the bank and he came under pressure due to cash-flow problems.
“This is certainly not a case of a luxurious lifestyle. It was simply to keep that shop afloat,” said Mr Wood.
“It was really a situation he could not see any alternative from. He used money from the post office to keep the shop afloat”.
Mr Wood revealed that his client had now been made bankrupt and he said both Dhale and his family had had the case hanging over them for almost three years.
Mr Wood suggested that if his client received an eight-month prison sentence for the offence he would be released on a tag after about four weeks because he was not a violent offender.
“In those circumstances I submit the public is best served by him being in the community, working to try to get money together to make some sort of repayments”, said Mr Wood.
Judge Potter said the case did pass the custody threshold, but he indicated that Dhale’s guilty plea had saved him from being sent to prison straight away.
The judge also took account of the fact that the offending was not fraudulent from the outset and there was no evidence of a luxurious lifestyle involving fast cars and expensive holidays.
float”, added Judge Potter.
He sentenced Dhale to 12 months in custody, but suspended the sentence for two years.
Dhale will also have to do 250 hours unpaid work for the community.