Postmaster fiddled the books as store failed

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A 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, 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 of the money, but at an earlier court hearing his guilty plea to the false accounting allegation was accepted.

Andrew Stranex, prosecuting, told Bradford Crown Court that Dhale, 27, was suspended from his post and nine days later 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 confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard there was still a dispute as to whether the total discrepancy figure was the Royal Mail’s £169,000 or £130,000.

Dhale’s barrister Stephen Wood stressed his client never intended any loss would be incurred and explained how the defendant came under financial pressure after he took over the Costcutter store which incorporated the post office.

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 owed significant amounts to the bank and he came under pressure due to cash-flow problems.

Mr Wood said his client was now bankrupt.

Judge Potter said Dhale’s guilty plea had saved him from being sent to prison straight away and sentenced him to 12 months prison, suspended for two years, with 250 hours unpaid community work.