Stephen Simmons was convicted of stealing mailbags in 1976, along with two of his friends. He was arrested and served eight months in jail, though has maintained that he was innocent the entire time. The British 62-year-old businessman struggled to shake the conviction, then a lawyer on a radio call-in show provided a tip that changed everything.
Simmons, who was 19-years-old at the time of his conviction, had contacted a radio call-in show approximately four years ago looking for legal advice. The barrister, Daniel Barnett, spoke with him, advising Simmons that, if he wanted to clear his name, he needed to Google the name of the arresting officer who took him into custody.
Simmons searched for Det. Sgt. Derek Ridgewell, a member of the British Transport Police who along with arresting Simmons had also made remarks that helped lead to his conviction, south London, and discovered something astounding.
It turned out Ridgewell himself has been convicted of stealing mailbags approximately five years after he arrested Simmons.
Ridgewell was sentenced and served seven and a half years in jail for the thefts, valued at £300,000, or approximately $420,000 based on today’s exchange rates, according to a report by Fox News.
In 1982, Ridgewell passed away while still in prison.
The revelation left Simmons “gobsmacked,” but served as the basis for an appeal, giving him grounds to apply to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), a group that investigates potential miscarriages of justice in England.
He presented the evidence to the court, and the lord chief justice described the information as “extremely telling.”
Ultimately, the conviction was struck from his record. Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett state, “We would wish only to note our regret that is has taken so long for this injustice to be remedied.”
After the justice’s announcement, Simmons stated he wanted to “stand on top of the building and tell everybody.”
Simmons noted that Ridgewell’s actions that led to his conviction damaged him beyond the time he lost to his jail sentence, including harming his mental health. He also said that one of his friends who was also arrested for stealing mailbags became an alcoholic after spending time in prison and is now deceased.