A FORMER Post Office manager is among six that have had their convictions overturned in court today.

Former Horspath sub-postmaster Vipinchandra Patel had his conviction for misappropriating funds officially quashed at Southwark Crown Court this morning.

The conviction relates to the long-running Post Office Horizon scandal.

The scandal saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of crimes including false accounting, fraud and theft when accounts showed unexplained shortfalls and discrepancies.

Sub-postmasters say they were told they’d likely face jail unless they admitted to taking the money out of Post Office funds.

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“The past nine years have been hellish and a total nightmare but today I feel I can start living again. I can look forward and focus on enjoying life,” said Mr Patel.

“I feel euphoric as I have finally been vindicated. This conviction has been a cloud over my life for almost 10 years. There are members of my family in India who I’ve never told about it, and my mother died five years ago never knowing what we’d been through as a family.

“It has impacted on every aspect of life, causing the breakdown of relationships with some family members and friends, impacting on the lives of my wife and children and leaving me in ill health and unable to work due to having a criminal record.

“We retained our shop despite losing the Post Office, but we’ve lost so much business over the years as people heard about my conviction and wouldn’t come in. Today is the start of a new beginning, but this should never have been allowed to happen.”

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Mr Patel was handed an 18-week prison sentence for fraud in June 2011, after being accused of stealing £75,000.

The overturning of the conviction comes two months after the Post Office confirmed it would not oppose or contest 44 of the first 47 cases referred to the Court of Appeal by The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).

The postmasters and their lawyers say they were all victims of the company’s faulty Horizon IT system which made errors that made it look like they were taking cash.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented three of the six who had their convictions quashed. He said: “Today is a historic day. These people have always been innocent, but they have each had a criminal record against their name which they have had to live with for many years, bringing many difficulties to their lives. Today, they can finally hold their heads high again as their names have been officially cleared in court.”

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