A Google Search Helps Innocent Man Overturn Theft Conviction 43 Years Later
A UK businessman who was convicted of stealing several mail bags in the 1970s has finally had his name cleared thanks to Google.
The man, 62-year-old Stephen Simmons of Dorking, England, was 19 when he and two friends were arrested by Det. Sgt. Derek Ridgewell of the British Transport Police in 1975.
They were given advice from a pro bono lawyer to plead guilty to the theft because “if they called the police liars, the judge would jail them for a long time,” reported the Guardian.
Knowing they were innocent, they went against the attorney’s advice and were convicted after pleading not guilty. Simmons spent eight months in jail, but even worse than that, he says the conviction plagued him and his health for the next 43 years.
“One of the hardest things for me was that my parents did not believe me because they were of the generation that believed that the police could not lie,” he said, according to the Guardian.
Several years ago, he was advised by a lawyer on a call-in radio show to Google the name of his arresting officer.
He did, not expecting to find anything, so was “gobsmacked,” he told the Guardian, when he found out that Ridgewell had been convicted of stealing mail bags worth £300,000 in 1980, five years after him – that’s the equivalent of £1,210,033 (US$1,695,000) today.
He had not only stolen them, but he tried to sell them and then frame other people for it, Simmons said, per the BBC.
Man convicted of theft in 1976 cleared after Googling his arresting officer https://t.co/LnaFfDIPLa
— The Guardian (@guardian) January 17, 2018
Ridgewell was convicted in 1980 and died while in jail in 1982.
Simmons appealed his conviction, and on Wednesday, Jan. 23, a London Court of Appeal overturned his conviction.
“We would wish only to note our regret that it has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied,” said Chief Justice Lord Burnett, who called the case “exceptional” said after Simmon’s conviction was overturned, according to the BBC.
Surrey 'mailbag thief' jailed in 1976 overturns conviction https://t.co/jMuQoC0i0A
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 17, 2018
Simmons, who hadn’t even told his adult daughters about his conviction until recently, said having his day in court took an enormous burden off his chest.
“This is one of the happiest days of my life,” Simmons said outside court afterward, according to the Guardian. “It has hardly sunk in but I am not a criminal any more. I can hold my head up high.”
Businessman who was convicted of stealing mailbags aged 19 clears his name 40 years later https://t.co/GTs7PipHAs
— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) January 18, 2018