In June of 1976, Stephen Simmons and two friends were arrested in south London by the British Transport Police. They were accused of stealing mailbags in south London. The Guardian reports that Simmons and his friends were allowed to see a duty solicitor who told them that if they said the police were liars, they would sit in jail for “a long time.”
Despite the warnings, all three men pleaded not guilty yet, they were convicted. As a result, Simmons served eight months in Suffolk. Reportedly, the incident has haunted him ever since. Only recently did he tell his grown-up daughters about the ordeal.
Four years ago, Simmons received “friendly advice” by barrister Daniel Barnett on the LBC radio’s legal advice program. He was told to Google the name of his arresting officer if he wished to overturn his conviction, so he did exactly that. Simmons did not expect anything to emerge, but was surprised to learn that Ridgewell himself was jailed for seven years for mailbag thefts totaling a whopping £300,000 in 1980. He died in prison in 1982.
“I was gobsmacked,” said Simmons. He then took his case to the criminal cases review commission whose “meticulous research” led to an appeal. Speaking for Simmons, Steven Powles said: “Mr Simmons has been waiting for 43 years for this day.”
Lord Burnett, the lord chief justice, acknowledged case worker Adam Bell’s “remarkable” efforts and expressed regret about the court’s prior decision. Lord Burnett said the evidence was “extremely telling … It is an exceptional case”.
It was also revealed in court that Ridgewell was responsible for a series of cases in which young black men were falsely accused of mugging patrons on the London Underground. Ridgewell’s behavior was so inflammatory, the book Black for a Cause was written and in it, Ridgewell’s long history of “fit-ups” exposed.
After having the charges cleared, Simmons told the press: “This is one of the happiest days of my life. It has hardly sunk in but I am not a criminal any more. I can hold my head up high.
“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 added.
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Image Credit: Stephen Simmons