Innocence Undone: Noel Thomas Tragedy Institutional Deception

Mr Thomas was wrongly convicted of false accounting after the Horizon computer system failed

Mr Thomas was wrongly convicted of false accounting after the Horizon computer system failed

1 Noel Thomas to receive Honorary Degree from Bangor University

A former sub-postmaster has been presented with an honorary degree from Bangor University for his contribution to public service.

Noel Thomas, 77, from Anglesey, gained recognition for his significant role in addressing the widespread miscarriage of justice known as the Horizon scandal in the UK.

Engaging in a prolonged legal battle, he campaigned alongside others to clear the names of Post Office managers who faced criminal convictions due to faulty accounting software.

A spokesperson for the university said in a statement: 

“His commitment to seeking justice for those affected by the scandal exemplifies his resilience and determination to expose the truth.”

Mr Thomas said receiving the award at the University’s Graduation ceremony on Tuesday was a “great honour”.

Noel Thomas ( Former Post Office Sub-Postmaster) Is Honored As Shared On BBC Breakfast [11.07.2024]

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11 jul 2024

Full rights of this video go to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

Former sub-postmaster Noel Thomas
gets a standing ovation
after receiving an honorary degree
for his contribution to public service

Mr Thomas was wrongly convicted of false accounting after the Horizon computer system failed.

“I thank my family and the press for working on my behalf for the last 18 years”, he said.

“It’s been a great honour to stand here today amongst all these wonderful students.”

Professor Edmund Burke, Vice-Chancellor, Bangor University said: “Graduation ceremonies are an opportunity to come together to celebrate the success of each and every Bangor student.

“As well as celebrating each student’s journey to being awarded their degree, awarding Honorary Degrees allows us to show our appreciation for the impact made by individuals across public service, in the world of literature and music, in business, sport or science.

“Our students’ stories, and the stories of the individuals we will honour this year, have the power to inspire us all.”

Noel Thomas who spent his 60th in jail and had life 'ruined' by scandal

Noel Thomas, now 77, spent his 60th birthday locked up after being wrongly convicted in the scandal ( Image ITV)
Investigated in 2005 alleged £48,000 loss.

2 What Happened to Noel Thomas, Whose Life Was ‘Ruined’ by Scandal

Noel Thomas was sentenced to nine months in prison after being wrongly convicted in the Post Office IT scandal currently being highlighted in a new ITV drama – here he tells how it still affects him and his family to this day as their fight for justice continues.

A postmaster whose story was highlighted in new ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office spent his 60th birthday behind bars after being wrongly imprisoned in the scandal.

Noel Thomas was one of more than 700 people whose lives were ruined between 1999 and 2015 when they were falsely accused of theft and false accounting by the Post Office after the Horizon computer system they installed in thousands of branches caused cash to vanish from tills.

As part of their contracts, postmasters were expected to make up the shortfall themselves or risk losing their jobs. Noel, now 77, had worked for the Post Office since the 1960s and recalls how his trauma began in 2003 when he noticed sums of money inexplicably began disappearing from his books at his shop in Gaerwan on the island of Anglesey in Wales.

He was in regular contact with Post Office management, who reassured him they would “sort it out”. But one morning in October 2005, Noel’s life changed forever when two auditors knocked on his door at 7.30am and began to investigate him for an alleged £48,000 loss.

The true story of Noel Thomas and other victims is being told in ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office

To this day, Noel remembers every detail. He said the auditors came back with two policemen who he knew. They were then instructed to “cuff him” and take him into custody. The events of that morning would kickstart a gruelling 16-year-long ordeal for Noel, the ramifications of which are still impacting him and his family to this day.

Though he was innocent, Noel – like many others in his position – pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of false accounting to avoid a more serious charge of theft in the hope it would keep him out of jail. But this plan backfired and Noel was sentenced to nine months in prison, he would later describe as being like “hell on Earth”.

He even spent his 60th birthday behind bars. In the end, he only served 14 weeks of that sentence, but was wrongly sent to HMP Walton where he claims he was locked up for 24 hours a day for more than a week straight.

Noel told The Mirror : “I started in paradise and ended up in hell. For the first three years after getting out of prison I was on my arse, I had lost everything. I was a county councillor and a postmaster, earning around £45,000 a year between the two. It was a real fall from grace. They made me bankrupt and I had nothing. When I came home I didn’t like having the bedroom door shut. I have to get out and go for walks as much as possible. Even now I don’t like being shut up in the house or to be in one room too long.”

The repercussions of what happened extended beyond the postmasters to their families and Noel’s daughter Sian revealed she “still has nightmares about the day he was taken away”. She said: “I remember standing outside Caernarfon Crown Court holding his coat and his wallet and crying because it felt like he had died, not just gone to prison. I’ve put my life on hold for 16 years while I have been a secretary for him helping him fight this. They had to move in with me because they lost the house, we lived hand to mouth because we were surviving on just my income and my mother’s pension. He’s not a greedy man, he doesn’t want anything more than what he is owed.”

Unbeknown to him at the time, Noel was one of many postmasters and postmistresses caught up in the scandal – but all were told they were the only ones so the computer system couldn’t be to blame. Noel said: “Horizon was a beast, it was uncontrollable and the people behind it had no control, so they decided to defend it.”

It was only when Llandudno postmaster Alan Bates, who lost his shop and life savings but refused to accept responsibility or pay up, started a campaign for a public inquiry and encouraged other who had been affected to come forward that their voices began to be heard. But it would take years for those convicted to clear their names, which eventually happened at the Court of Appeal in 2021.

By this point many had lost their livelihoods, gone bankrupt and had their reputations left in tatters. Others, including Noel and a pregnant woman, were sent to prison. Tragically four took their own lives after failing to see a way out and some died before they could clear their names.

Though he had lost everything himself, Alan continued to push for justice and was instrumental in establishing campaign group Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) in 2009. This organisation, made up of former sub-postmasters, then began a legal battle against the Post Office that is still continuing to this day.

It was around this time that Noel, now living in a council bungalow after being forced to sell his house and working for parcel delivery service Yodel after he lost his job, caught wind of there being something larger amiss after watching an S4C report into the issue. He said: “From that, I realised that there were more people than myself. We started meeting in Warwickshire, and there were only about 30 of us in the beginning.”But the community “steadily grew” and momentum began to build.

Tragically, whilst battling to free his name, Noel and his family were dealt a heavy blow and lost one of his three children to cancer at the age of 51 in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

Noel said his one regret about the Court of Appeal verdict, which cleared the names of 39 former Post Office employees, was that his late son wasn’t there to witness it. He said at the time: “They started naming the 39, and my name came up, and as soon as it came up I was really emotional. I would have loved to have seen him there with me. He drove me up and down the country to different places… He’d have been there yesterday.”

Though Noel has since received some of the £58 million compensation the Post Office were ordered to pay out in total over the scandal, he could be in line to receive even more once an independent public statutory inquiry, which is due to continue this year, publishes its findings.

Mirror

3 Post Office victim Sir Alan Bates says ‘battle still ongoing’ as he is awarded honorary degree

“The cover-up can be worse than the crime,” said Sir Alan Bates in a speech addressing the graduates. Credit: Prifysgol Bangor University

Addressing the students at the graduation ceremony, he said: “One of the things the Post Office scandal shows quite vividly is that things go wrong.

“But when things go wrong don’t cover it up – because the cover-up can be worse than the crime.”

Sir Alan had been running the post office in his shop in Craig-y-Don, near Llandudno, for years without any issue.

But shortly after the Horizon accounting system was introduced, inexplicable discrepancies began to appear.

Despite multiple complaints to the Post Office about the reliability of the new system, in 2003, Sir Alan’s contract was terminated without reason.

The termination meant forfeiting his investment of over £60,000- which was a significant sum to their retail shop.

Sir Alan founded the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance in 2009 which led to convictions against postmasters being quashed, and the launch of the ongoing Post Office inquiry.

However, he made clear in his speech that the “battle is still ongoing”, and the fight for justice is “not over yet.”

He added: “People need to take responsibility for their actions, and hopefully you’ll do that when you go forward from here.”

Former sub-postmaster ‘honoured’ to get degree from Bangor University

Those in the crowd could be heard applauding the former sub-postmaster who received a standing ovation following his speech.

Former Anglesey postmaster Noel Thomas, who was wrongly jailed because of the Horizon errors, was also in attendance.

Mr Thomas was also awarded an honorary doctorate for his role in the campaign at a ceremony earlier in the week.

Sir Alan Bates delivered a speech to Bangor University graduates.

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