THEY told him not to worry. All would be fine – they would come in and sort it. It's just some kind of glitch; they'll take care of it. There is nothing to be worried about.

In the months to come, there would be allegations, intimidation, whispers and grief. No one listened; no one cared.

Robert Thomson had been assured, time and time again, that everything would be OK and that he'd done nothing wrong – until he was faced with the possibility of prison for a crime he did not commit.

The former Cambus postmaster has opened up about how his life was impacted after he was sacked during the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Robert was one of thousands of postmasters across the United Kingdom struck off from their positions and, in some cases, taken to court.

They faced accusations of theft and embezzlement, with some going on to serve prison sentences, ultimately for crimes they didn't commit.

Robert worked as the postmaster at the Cambus Post Office, a role he had enjoyed for many years, until he was accused of stealing up to £7000 over the period of several months in 2006.

Robert spoke with the Advertiser to explain what had happened to him and the impact it had on himself and his family.

"When we did a balance each night," Robert said. "My figures were multiplying every night so I went onto the helpline and explained.

"They couldn't find an explanation so they referred me to this book that I called 'the bible' – they said there might be something in there.

"It started off with just a couple hundred pound which I put back into the account to make it balanced but then the next night, it started to go up again.

"I phoned again and explained and they told me not to worry and told me to let it roll over."

Robert frequently tried to contact his bosses for assistance, adamant something was wrong as he could not account for the figures rising so unexpectedly.

Higher ups at the Post Office reassured Robert it was nothing to worry about, but the postmaster knew this wasn't supposed to happen.

"Over the period of about three or four months," Robert continued. "It was up to £6,000 and I knew there was something wrong so I asked again for someone to come and help but they assured me it would sort itself out.

"Eventually, an auditor came out and we shut the post office for the audit. They told me they'd sorted it and told me we were short £7,000.

"I wanted to see how they've found that out but all they told me was that I owed the Post Office £7000 then they shut the Post Office for an investigation."


SCANDAL: Robert Thomson was sacked from his job at the Post Office and falsely accused of embezzlement. Pictures by Ben Montgomery Photography.

SCANDAL: Robert Thomson was sacked from his job at the Post Office and falsely accused of embezzlement. Pictures by Ben Montgomery Photography.


Without much explanation, the Cambus Post Office was closed and Robert was told he was the subject of an investigation into the missing money.

His wife was in the hospital at the time which prolonged the process until he found a day when two investigators could speak to him about the case.

Following the investigation, Robert was accused of embezzling funds from the Post Office and was told he'd be facing serious jail time.

He said: "Private detectives came to my house and interviewed me and afterwards, they told me to resign because it would look better on me.

"I didn't have a lawyer with me at the time so I did that and then I went to court and I was looking at jail time.

"It went down as embezzlement from the Post Office. The judge told me I was looking at a custodial sentence and I just felt ready to drop.

"I got a lawyer and he told me to change my plea to guilty because it would look better even though I knew I wasn't guilty.

"The judge told me I was given community hours as I hadn't been in trouble before."

Despite not receiving a prison sentence, Robert was given a criminal record and his name in the community was in tatters.

The Post Office remained closed and Robert was put out of work. Although he was adamant of his innocence, Robert found his family began to suffer because of his criminal record.

He continued: "I did my community service but it put such a black hole over my family because people were talking about it.

"I was frightened to leave the house and I became depressed. I kept away from the doctors, I'd sit with my wife and just break down and cry.

"My wife was out of hospital now and my two boys were being bullied because of this, I couldn't go about because people were talking about me.

"My family went through hell for years because people were talking. Even if you didn't hear them, you knew they were talking."

The worst affected was Robert's mum Margaret, who worked at the Cambus Post Office alongside her son before she retired.

Robert explained that his mum was held in very high regard at the Post Office, leading him to go to great lengths to keep what had happened from her.

Unfortunately, he couldn't hide it forever and Margaret's health rapidly declined on hearing what had happened, with Robert blaming himself for her passing.

He said: "I tried to keep it from my mum but word got out and people started asking what happened to the Post Office.

"My mum worked at the Post Office for years and she was thought of very highly there. She'd cover shifts in case of absences and she never had any money loss or shortages.

"It was 15 years ago on Friday, December 15, that I found my mum dead and I blamed myself because she heard all those people talking.

"She heard people saying 'there's that woman, her son stole all that money from the Post Office' and they wouldn't hear otherwise.

"It took such a toll on her and her health got worse.

"My family and my mum kept ourselves in as much as we could, just in our four walls and I blame myself for losing my mum.

"If this didn't happen, there's a possibility that she might still be here today."


SCANDAL: Robert Thomson was sacked from his job at the Post Office and falsely accused of embezzlement. Pictures by Ben Montgomery Photography.

SCANDAL: Robert Thomson was sacked from his job at the Post Office and falsely accused of embezzlement. Pictures by Ben Montgomery Photography.


IN 2014, the Horizon system at the Post Office – which was originally implemented in the late 90s and introduced in Post Offices in 2000-2001 – was deemed to be untrustworthy.

The High Court ruled in 2018 that it suffered from a number of bugs and errors.

This came as a relief to the thousands of postmasters falsely accused, but doesn't go far enough in compensating for the impact this has had on each individual person.

"It was a relief don't get me wrong," Robert said. "But I got accused for over four months from the Post Office of stealing money and not getting any help.

"I asked the Post Office why they didn't get anyone to check the systems to make sure I hadn't stolen anything but they prolonged it.

"I don't think they realise what they did to us. I've tried to take my own life and how do they feel? They go about their lives not thinking about me or anyone else harmed by this.

"I've struggled to get a job or get bank loans due to a criminal record. It's been a long haul struggle to get things where I want them to be.

"I'm back to square one, I was meant to get it cleared in October but there was a hold-up so I got in touch with my local MP.

"People are starting to talk about it now and we're starting to get some movement about it now. There are 74 of us in Scotland waiting to have our convictions overturned."

Robert makes up a large group of Scottish postmasters currently fighting their convictions in appeals court.

While it is accepted that they played no part in the scandal, they have not officially been cleared or had their convictions wiped away, continuing to cause distress on their lives.

Recently, the UK Government announced that compensation worth £600,000 would be made available to those affected by the scandal once their convictions had been overturned.

Robert is backed by Keith Brown, MSP for Clackmannanshire and Dunblane, who has stepped up to personally fight for his case.

Keith said: "For months now, I've been urging the Post Office and other relevant bodies to do what they can to ensure that the wrongful convictions of those affected by the postmasters scandal are overturned and that the agreed upon compensation is made available to all postal workers affected.

"We know that this issue has had a devastating effect on lives across the country – false imprisonment, life-long criminal records, and I'm also aware of some cases where people have died with a criminal record before their wrongful conviction was even identified.

"I therefore welcomed the news of the £600,000 financial compensation for those wrongly convicted.

"However, the promise of that compensation is only as good as the number of people who receive it, and I know that people like Robert have yet to have their conviction overturned and receive any of that compensation.

"As Robert's story shows, the impact of this wrongful conviction goes far beyond just a legal or financial matter – this impact this has had on his mental state and his life is truly shocking, and I'd urge all the relevant bodies involved in this ongoing legal issue to expedite cases like Robert's and ensure that these historical wrongs are put right."

While promises of compensation is a step to putting things right, it will never fully ease the pain and suffering of those impacted.

This miscarriage of justice turned Robert's life turned upside down and he currently holds a criminal record for crimes he didn't commit. He also continues to bear guilt for the decline in his mother's health.

He now looks ahead to spring 2024 for his next chance at having his life put right again, but will not be getting his hopes up too much.

He added: "I've been fighting my case for six years now and what I can't understand is that my proceedings have been cleared in English law but not Scottish.

"I'm going through all the rigmarole again and I get a date in either February/March to find out if I get my conviction overturned.

"There were five of us – two got cleared in October but one had already lost her husband and I blame myself for losing my mum.

"I'm not getting my hopes up just to get my feet kicked away from me again."