A POSTMASTER backed by Princess Kate and her family in his ten-year fight for justice today demands: “Now overturn every conviction.”
The Middletons’ village shopkeeper Hasmukh Shingadia, 63, said they “supported me a lot” as he got a suspended sentence for false accounting overturned.
Grandad Hasmukh would serve sweets to teenage Kate and sister Pippa at the Spar and Post Office he has run since 1998[/caption]
The Middletons attended a celebratory tea party at Bucklebury memorial hall after his conviction was quashed[/caption]
Hsasmukh got an invitation from Kate to her 2011 wedding to Prince William[/caption]
Grandad Hasmukh would serve sweets to teenage Kate and sister Pippa at the Spar and Post Office he has run in Upper Bucklebury, Berks, since 1998.
But months later he was convicted of false accounting and given a suspended jail term after his dodgy Horizon computer system showed £16,000 of discrepancies.
His conviction was quashed in July 2021 — with the Middletons attending a celebratory tea party at Bucklebury memorial hall.
Hasmukh said: “They continued to come into my shop and spendhere. Even after Kate got engaged she’d still pop in.
“Not everybody did that and some locals shunned me.”
He urged PM Rishi Sunak to exonerate all 736 sub-postmasters convicted from 2000-2015, and backed a probe into bungling Post Office chiefs.
Recalling his royal wedding invitation, Hasmukh, wed to Chandrika, 55, said: “It meant so much to us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which they gave me despite the charges.
“For them to have done that for us, it was tremendous.
“I’ve known them more than 25 years, and they have always been such kind and welcoming people.
“After my conviction was overturned and it was in the media, Michael Middleton came in and asked what had happened.
“He was overjoyed and said, ‘Well done’. I know I couldn’t ask them for help directly because of the position they were in. But I am really grateful to the wider family for standing by me. They are really good people.”
Hasmukh bought his branch for around £60,000 and spent thousands on renovations. Fujitsu’s Horizon system was installed in 2001.
He immediately noticed glitches in the tech, before error messages in 2009 and 2010 showed shortfalls of several hundred pounds.
The financial errors were caused by faulty software duplicating transactions, despite assurances the blunders were not possible.
The total amount missing stacked up to £16,000, which Hasmukh attempted to make good by putting in his own earnings and borrowing from friends and family.
Hasmukh said he repeatedly called the helpline but the Post Office offered little support and claimed the problem was isolated. In March 2010 auditors from the Post Office suspended him after finding the shortfall.
That year, he was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery to remove a sarcoma and lost his mother.
His Post Office contract was later terminated before lawyers at the public body launched a bid to pursue him criminally.
Hasmukh pleaded guilty on the advice of his solicitor who warned fighting the case could see him jailed for years.
And, just 83 days after the royal wedding, he was handed an eight-month suspended sentence at Oxford crown court, ordered to pay more than £2,000 in costs and do 200 hours’ community service.
Hasmukh said: “It was horrible, not only for me, but my family as well. We all went through hell. I had suicidal thoughts. I’m still dealing with the fallout emotionally and mentally.”
Hasmukh said of winning: “I just burst into tears because it had taken so long.
“The fact we kept the documents meant it was much more simple to get my conviction corrected.”
Hasmukh pleaded guilty on the advice of his solicitor who warned fighting the case could see him jailed for years[/caption]
In his early years at Hasmukh’s store, Kate and Pippa would pop in for Doritos and Haribo.[/caption]
Some 236 branch managers served jail terms. At least four took their own lives.
Around 60 are believed to have died before their convictions could be quashed.
Just 93 were overturned despite evidence the Post Office was aware of glitches.
Hasmukh said: “Those jailed will never get that time back. Even those who didn’t go to jail lost years with the stress.”
He slammed ex-Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells for holding on to her CBE until today, after a petition calling for her to return it reached 1.2million signatures. Ms Vennells, who left the role in 2019, received £4.5m during her 7½-year tenure.
Hasmukh said: “Mr Bates refused his OBE but she hung on to her CBE, so yes, it’s good, the right decision.”
Hasmukh still works more than 13 hours a day at the Spar which no longer has a Post Office.
In 2022 he told the Horizon inquiry that his second home in Leicester, to which he planned to retire, had been repossessed after his conviction.
He watched the TV drama but his daughter couldn’t because of the memories.
Hasmukh added: “It was needed. Hopefully now there will be progress.”
- THE four-part drama plus a documentary which aired last week have already been watched by 14.8m viewers.
Hounded post staff owed full damages
By Rebecca Thomson, the journalist who broke the story
THERE are a few things most postmasters embroiled in the scandal have in common — their decency, kindness, and the life-ruining injustice they have been subject to.
These were evident when I first spoke to some in 2008 when I worked at Computer Weekly magazine.
We had received a letter from Alan Bates, a sub-postmaster from Llandudno, North Wales, and one from Lee Castleton, of Bridlington, East Yorks.
I called them and we went looking for others willing to go on the record.
The group I spoke to early on turned out to be just a small number affected.
Many lost their savings, livelihoods, and even homes.
I am proud that whistle-blowers, like Mr Bates and Mr Castleton are finally getting the justice they deserve.
I’m angry the Government ignored journalists until it had to take notice.
It is a difficult story to tell because the Post Office and computer programmes are not exciting subjects.
But the ITV drama — in which I was played briefly by Matilda Bailes — was able to show how these people’s lives were wrecked.
Many have been offered tiny amounts of compensation. Lawyers have called it a scandal within a scandal.
It’s time for urgent action. Pay the sub-postmasters what they are owed.