Mailbag thief 'framed' in 1976 seeks to overturn conviction

Stephen Simmons in the 1970s Image copyright Stephen Simmons
Image caption Stephen Simmons spent eight months in a youth detention centre in 1976 for theft

A convicted mailbag thief who later found a detective who arrested him was guilty of a similar crime may have his conviction of 41 years ago overturned.

Stephen Simmons spent eight months in a youth detention centre in 1976 for stealing mailbags from a train at Clapham Goods Yard in south London.

He was then aged 19 and has always maintained he was innocent.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is referring his case to the Appeal Court, citing unreliable police evidence.

It said there was a real possibility the conviction would be overturned.

Image copyright Stephen Simmons
Image caption Mr Simmons searched for the officer on the internet

'Painstaking review'

Mr Simmons, who is now 62 and runs an audio and phone equipment business in Newdigate, Surrey, was arrested and charged by Det Sgt Derek Ridgewell, of the British Transport Police.

Mr Simmons told BBC Surrey that after taking legal advice from a radio phone-in show four years ago, he searched for the officer on the internet and discovered that he had a criminal record.

"I found out he'd been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for the theft of Royal Mail bags and selling them, and framing people for it."

Mr Simmons then applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) which conducted "a detailed and painstaking review" into the circumstances of his conviction and the background and record of Det Sgt Ridgewell, who died in prison in 1982.

The CCRC is referring the case on the basis of new evidence:

  • circumstances surrounding the exclusion of another confession obtained by Det Sgt Ridgewell in a separate goods in transit case
  • acquittals and judicial observations about unreliable police evidence and fabricated confessions in other cases where Det Sgt Ridgewell was the lead officer
  • Det Sgt Ridgewell's conviction for conspiracy to steal goods in transit

Mr Simmons said he was "100% confident" that he would clear his name.

"I am bitter, absolutely bitter against him.

"I want to let it go, but I can't. Now I'm going to court and can have my day."

A CCRC spokesman said: "The commission considers that the new evidence gives rise to a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will overturn Mr Simmons' conviction and has referred the case accordingly."

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