WHEN it came time for me to be sentenced for stealing money from the Post Office the judge said: “You have been taking money from old age pensioners, are you going to apologise?”
I replied that I wouldn’t apologise because I wasn’t guilty.
I expected to have my conviction quashed along with 38 other former postmasters, but it still felt a shock[/caption]
So the judge said he had no choice but to impose a six-month custodial sentence.
Yesterday, after a 19-year fight to clear my name, judges at the Royal Courts of Justice finally accepted the truth — I am innocent.
I expected to have my conviction quashed along with 38 other former postmasters, but it still felt a shock that justice had finally been done after all this time.
Being convicted of a crime I never committed has affected my whole life.
The mental impact and trauma has been hard to bear and on numerous occasions I have tried to kill myself.
Right from the start I was bewildered by how unwilling the Post Office was to listen to my version of events.
I was a 19-year-old counter clerk in Camberwell, South London, which was my first job after leaving school, when I was told a shortfall had been found in my till.
It wasn’t a case of: “What do you think has happened to the money?” It was: “What have you done with the money?”
They had access to my bank account and my home, but they found nothing.
The case was simply “the money is missing, so you must be guilty”.
At the trial, prosecution witnesses expressed confidence in the reliability of Fujitsu’s Horizon computer programme.
My biggest hope is that there is a full investigation into the case to find out who knew what, where and when[/caption]
Former Post Office worker Tom Hedges (centre) pops a bottle champagne in celebration outside the Royal Courts of Justice[/caption]
Evidence now suggests the Post Office and Fujitsu had been aware the software had glitches.
The Post Office told my family if they paid back the missing £11,500 that I would be spared a custodial sentence.
My family rallied round to get the money, taking out loans.
Despite that, I served three months inside Holloway Prison in London, which isn’t something you’d wish on your worst enemy.
Gradually, the truth about the computer system problem came out, but the Post Office stubbornly refused to admit its mistakes.
Only in 2019 was I awarded £17,000 in compensation, which doesn’t cover the damage the criminal record did to my career prospects.
I won’t rest until the hundreds of other Post Office workers waiting to have their sentences quashed receive justice[/caption]
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A criminal record prevented me from finding work for two years.
Today, this case is not over. My biggest hope is that there is a full investigation into the case to find out who knew what, where and when.
And I won’t rest until the hundreds of other Post Office workers waiting to have their sentences quashed receive justice.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support: