"I have attempted suicide on three occasions"
A former postmaster has revealed how he tried to commit suicide three times after he was wrongly accused of stealing thousands from the Post Office.
Between 1999 and 2015, over 700 Post Office branch managers were wrongly convicted after faults with the Horizon software made it look like there were shortfalls.
Some workers were incorrectly sent to prison while others were bankrupt.
While the scandal has been public knowledge, the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office has thrust the issue back into the spotlight.
Parmod Kalia is one of the 93 people who have had their convictions overturned. However, the show was a difficult watch.
In 2001, money began disappearing from his accounts and eventually, £22,000 went missing.
Mr Kalia reported the problem but the Post Office continued to accuse him of theft.
The former postmaster in Orpington, southeast London, was advised by his union’s representative to find the money to fill the gap to keep out of the courts and avoid jail.
Mr Kalia borrowed money from his money, cashed the cheque and hoped that would be the end of it.
But he was still prosecuted for theft based on the data from their computer accounts.
During the ordeal, his marriage broke down and his children started asking if he had actually taken the money.
Mr Kalia was later sentenced to six months in prison.
Recalling the judge’s ruling, he said: “I was having difficulty breathing if I’m honest. I couldn’t comprehend what had just been said.”
Mr Kalia appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and said the past 21 years of his life had been ripped away from him.
He revealed: “It’s destroyed me mentally, I have just cooped it up within myself – a buildup of not knowing what it was, no one to talk to, no one to discuss it with.
“I have lost 21 years of my life, no earning capacity.
“I have had a breakdown with my family, my wife, my children, shame in the community.
“I have attempted suicide on three occasions, it’s that as well.”
Mr Kalia’s conviction was overturned 20 years later but he still has not received compensation.
Mr Kalia is taking things day by day but “compensation won’t bring back more than 20 years of suffering”.
Meanwhile, seven Post Office workers of South Asian heritage believe racism affected the way people were treated in the scandal.
Balvinder Gill was wrongly accused of stealing £108,000 in 2004.
He suffered another blow in 2009 when his mother was found guilty of stealing £57,000 from the same Oxford Post Office Branch.
Her conviction was overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in 2021.
Mr Gill told BBC Newsnight: “My parents were spoken to as if they were idiots because they’re not white.
“They were made to feel like they didn’t understand the system and that they were stupid.”
He described his parents’ experience as “an indirect, oppressive kind of racism”.