In the last in our series, Noel talks about the effect of a Post Office prosecution on himself and the effect on other subpostmasters. 

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In the last in our series, Noel talks about the effect of a Post Office prosecution on himself and the effect on other subpostmasters.

Since the year 2000, the Post Office has charged over 700 people for theft, false accounting or fraud. 555 former subpostmasters belonged to the Justice for Postmasters Group and Noel Thomas was one of them.

The victims have been sharing their personal experiences and Noel has become good friends with many.

Seema Misra, a sub-postmistress from Surrey was pregnant when she was prosecuted by the Post Office and sent to prison for stealing £75,000. She was innocent.

"Yes, I've met Seema and her husband. I’ve met most of the (victims) and such is life I became closer friends with some more than others. I’ve lost one very good friend, Julian Wilson. He died in 2006 and his wife Karen was with us in London when he was cleared in the Court of Appeal.”

Some families have been torn apart under such pressure said Noel.

“And there are others who have doubted staff who worked for them of taking the money!”

And some, he says, have committed suicide.

“One threw himself under a bus and another threw himself in front of a train. Others have taken an overdose.”

Noel says he has also suffered as a result of being wrongly charged and imprisoned and that having been released, life wasn’t easy.

“In the beginning it was a problem for me. The way I overcame it, was to walk. I'd walk for hours along the beach in Malltraeth and Llanddwyn. And having been locked in a cell, I didn’t like having the door shut. But one gets stronger.”

A friend gave him a job delivering parcels until the company relocated after four years.

Noel then went to work at a garden centre in Pentre Berw.

“I was there for six years and quite happy. I knew so many people there and they knew me. When this business with the appeal court started people took notice and were thinking I had been been right all along. That’s the nature of things. I stopped working there last Christmas when I received some of the compensation.”

Noel was 75 years old when he stopped working at the garden centre.

Not all victims of the Post Office Scandal belonged to the Justice for Postmasters group.

There was Deirdre Conolly from Northern Ireland. She was also falsley accused and prosecuted for theft by the Post Office.

Noel said, “She spoke about a man coming over from London to interview her. He asked whether she had given the money to the IRA!”

Lee Castleton had a similar experience to Noel. The Yorkshire man had repeatedly phoned the Post Office to say about the problem with the Horizon software.

"Lee is not part of the Justice for Postmasters group either. He fought his own case in the Court of Appeal – he couldn’t afford a barrister. Horizon came in with all the big guns and Lee lost his case. He received a bill from the Post of nearly £400,000. It’s a burden around his neck all the time.”

And the examples of these miscarriages of justice just keep on coming

Noel continues: "There was this lady and some money had gone missing and the Post Office took her business and two houses! She believes that they have taken somewhere in the region of a £1 million worth of her property."

Since being forced to give up his job as Gaerwen postmaster in 2005 and being imprisoned in 2006, Noel has received only £100,000 in compensation. Half of the money has gone into paying off debts. How much more money does Noel think he is owed?

“How do you put a price on life?” is his only answer.

And how does Noel feel today about the way he’s been treated by the Post Office?

“People are saying that those responsible should be jailed. But I don’t think prison would do anything for them. What needs to be done is to take their money off them – the huge cash bonuses they get. Make them feel the way I felt when I ended up pennyless.”

This series first appeared on our sister site, Corgi Cymru

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