Watch: Council honours former postmaster wrongly jailed for false accounting
A former Anglesey County Councillor who was jailed for false accounting was this week honoured by the local authority.
Noel Thomas was a sub-postmaster in Gaerwen when he was wrongly accused, and subsequently convicted, of false accounting. He is one of 700 post office workers who were accused of fraud or theft and wrongfully prosecuted between 1999 and 2015.
The problem lay with the Horizon accounting software, which the Post Office had installed in its branches, and was incorrectly recording cash shortfalls.
Today (7 October) UK Government Business Secretary Grant Shapps unveiled a compensation scheme. The press release states it will be: “for postmasters who were first to take legal action against the Post Office over the Horizon IT scandal”.
But Noel Thomas has heard it all before. He is one of the 555 postmasters who, in 2019, had taken the first legal action. To date, he has received only £100,000 which has gone towards paying off his debts.
Grant Shapps may have got his headlines in the midst of an ongoing industrial dispute with posties, but Noel Thomas isn’t expecting his full and final compensation any time soon, he told Nation.Cymru today.
“They promise to settle and then it’s retracted. I’m one of 200 people represented by Hudgell Solicitors who, when they present the Post Office with the figures, they then come back and say: ‘no, no we’re not paying that’ and on it goes. Some people have yet to receive a penny and their health has suffered as a result.”
Mae cyn-is-bostfeistr a gollodd ei sedd ar Gyngor Ynys Môn wedi cael ei anrhydeddu gan y sir,16 mlynedd ar ôl iddo gael ei garcharu ar gam. pic.twitter.com/9fl7Z6Adw1
— Newyddion S4C (@NewyddionS4C) December 7, 2022
Mr Thomas gave his evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry – commonly referred to as the Post Office Scandal – in February of this year.
“The Chair of the inquiry is a Welshman, Sir Wyn Williams from the Rhondda, and I was answering questions in front of him for an hour. But it’s still ongoing and the inquiry isn’t expected to end until 2024. This goes back to the late 1990s when Tony Blair was Prime Minister. So, all one hears from the civil servants is: ‘this is nothing to do with me – someone else was dealing with it back then’ is what they tell Sir Wyn. Pass the buck!”
Noel Thomas says he doesn’t know when he and so many others will get closure.
“To date there has been four UK Governments responsible for the Post Office since I was first (falsely) accused, and we are no nearer to a resolution.”
In a statement saying Mr Thomas had “suffered a terrible miscarriage of justice”, Anglesey County Council Chairman Dafydd Roberts paid tribute to him.
“Noel Thomas was a popular and conscientious local member for the Llanfihangel Esceifiog Ward and I cannot imagine the nightmare he and his family have endured these past years.”
Welcoming Mr Thomas and his family to this week’s council meeting, Mr Roberts said: “We would (like) to honour him with a small token of our thanks and gratitude for his commitment and dedication during his time as a County Councillor.”
Christmas in Prison
On 6 November 2006, Noel Thomas was sent to prison by former North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, Mr Winston Roddick, sitting at Caernarfon Crown Court.
Having made a deal to plead guilty in order to avoid imprisonment, Mr Thomas remembers waiting the word ‘suspended’ when Mr Roddick said he was imprisoning him for nine months.
But it never came, and instead, Mr Roddick said: ‘take him down’ and Noel Thomas spent Christmas in jail, which brings back painful memories at this time of year, he says.
“But I get my birthday on Christmas Eve so that helps a little bit – I’ll be 76 this year.”
In 2021 the London Court of Appeal quashed Noel Thomas’s conviction, and those of numerous other sub-postmasters.
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