British Indian postmaster speaks of Princess Kate standing by him

He said he watched the ITV drama that aired earlier this month, but his daughter couldn’t because of the bad memories…reports Asian Lite News

An Indian-origin postmaster impacted by the UK’s Post Office scandal involving a faulty IT accounting system has spoken out about how the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, and her family stood by him over the crisis.

Shopkeeper Hasmukh Shingadia, 63, works in the village of Upper Bucklebury in Berkshire, south-east England, where Kate’s family is based and remembers her as a teenager.

He told ‘The Sun’ newspaper that he was even invited to her royal wedding to Prince William in April 2011 but was convicted of false accounting months later and handed a suspended jail sentence. His conviction was quashed in July 2021, with the Middleton family members attending a celebratory tea party at Bucklebury Memorial Hall.

“They continued to come into my shop and spend money here. Even after Kate got engaged, she’d still pop in. Not everybody did that, and some locals shunned me,” Shingadia told the newspaper.

His story emerged as British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons on Wednesday that a new law will be tabled in Parliament to exonerate all Post Office branch managers wrongly accused of theft over the faulty Horizon system, believed to have affected over 700 victims including many of Indian heritage.

“We will introduce new primary legislation to make sure that those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal are swiftly exonerated and compensated. We will also introduce a new upfront payment of GBP 75,000 for the vital [Group Litigation Order] group of postmasters,” said Sunak, branding it the “greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history”.

“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,” Shingadia said of his plight.

He was advised to appeal against his conviction by Alan Bates, portrayed on screen by British actor Toby Jones in a new television drama ‘Mr Bates Vs the Post Office’ which has brought the issue dating back to the 1990s into the limelight.

“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,” Shingadia told the newspaper.

He said he watched the ITV drama that aired earlier this month, but his daughter couldn’t because of the bad memories.

“It was needed. Hopefully, now there will be progress,” he said.

Official data from 2012 shows there were 1,547 branch managers, known as sub-postmasters, and agents of Indian heritage in England and Wales. It has since been established that the Horizon accounting system, which dates back to the 1990s and was installed in government-owned Post Office branches, was faulty.

Following Sunak’s announcement in Parliament, Downing Street has indicated that the intention is to have new legislation to exonerate all victims introduced within weeks and compensation paid out by the end of the year.

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