‘I took blame for Post Office shortfall to protect my mum’


Katie Hunter,BBC Scotland News

BBC Ravinder Naga - outside in a blue sweaterBBC

Ravinder Naga fears his conviction may not be overturned as part of the new Scottish legislation

A man who says he falsely confessed to stealing money from his mother’s Post Office to protect her from going to prison is waiting to find out whether his conviction will be quashed.

Ravinder Naga pleaded guilty to stealing £35,000 after auditors discovered a shortfall at Belville Street Post Office in Greenock.

Hundreds of people across the UK were convicted on the basis of evidence from a faulty Post Office IT system called Horizon.

Legislation exonerating all affected sub-postmasters in Scotland is expected to pass on Thursday.

But Mr Naga doesn’t know if it will cover him because he wasn’t the sub-postmaster.

In 2009 auditors turned up at the Post Office in the Inverclyde town, where his mother was the sub-postmistress, and uncovered an alleged shortfall of more than £33,000.

Mr Naga, from Port Glasgow, said he told her to tell Post Office investigators that he had stolen the money to “buy some time”.

But the missing money never appeared and the father-of-two ended up pleading guilty to theft. He was sentenced to 300 hours’ community service.

The former Belville Street Post Office  - a small shop with red shutters pulled down

Mr Naga pleaded guilty to a shortfall of £35,000 after auditors discovered a shortfall at his mother’s post office in Greenock

Mr Naga said he confessed to a crime he didn’t commit because his mother would not have survived prison.

He added: “If someone had to be sacrificed then better me than my mum.

“The family could have coped if maybe I wasn’t there but if my mum had been taken and something had happened to my mum then there would have been no recovery from that.”

Mr Naga said his health deteriorated during his community service and he struggled to get work.

And he told BBC Scotland News the theft he confessed to amounted to “robbing your own mother”.

Mr Naga described how his parents had built a business portfolio – including the Post Office – from scratch when they came to Scotland.

He added the only good thing to come from his confession was that his mother’s reputation was never tarnished because he took the hit.

Mr Naga’s father died before the alleged shortfall was discovered.

‘Less certain’ of exoneration

Mr Naga’s solicitor Greg Cunningham said he could not be sure whether his client would be cleared by legislation expected to pass in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

He explained if Mr Naga’s mother had been convicted there would be no doubt that she would be exonerated but his client’s situation was less certain as he wasn’t the sub-postmaster.

But Mr Cunningham said Mr Naga’s business connections to the Post Office – where he helped his mother on a regular basis – meant he may be included in the bill.

Mr Naga’s case has also been referred to the court of appeal.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, which looks into potential miscarriages of justice, found that “Horizon evidence was essential to the proof of the accounting shortfall that led to the prosecution”.

It also concluded that Mr Naga may “have pled guilty in circumstances that were clearly prejudicial to him”.

Mr Naga said he had nothing to hide.

Prosecutors in Scotland have not decided whether they will oppose his appeal.

Mr Naga’s mother is fully supporting her son’s bid to clear his name.

But he said the saga has left her stressed and tired.

Mr Naga added: “They’ve taken 15 years of her life. My mum was always a woman who was ambitious and wanted to build something up.

“To some people this is a TV programme or a news story but to other people it’s their life.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly for the hurt and suffering that was caused to victims of the Horizon IT Scandal and their loved ones.

“We know an apology from Post Office is not enough and so our focus remains on supporting the Public Inquiry to establish the truth, working with government to overturn wrongful convictions, and paying redress as quickly as possible.”

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