£17k bill to catch mail theft postie
A TOTAL of £17,500 has been spent taking a Neath postman to court for stealing an envelope containing 30 euros.
But Owain Williams-Bates was told by a judge he would not have to pay a penny of the cost in bringing the case to Swansea Crown Court.
Williams-Bates, of Briton Ferry Road, Neath, was caught out after an £8,500 surveillance operation which followed him along his West Swansea postie route.
Suspicions were raised when opened greetings cards were found in Cardiff and Swansea mail sorting centres, and an internal investigation began.
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A dummy greetings card containing 30 euros was planted in one of the postboxes along his route, which should have then been returned to the Swansea mail centre unopened.
But Royal Mail investigations officers then found the envelope had arrived back opened.
Williams-Bates was confronted by investigations officers and interviewed.
Prosecuting barrister, Richard Cole said: "He denied opening any mail or taking any euros, but he couldn't provide an explanation as to why the envelope arrived in the state it was in."
Mr Cole told the court the total cost of bringing the prosecution to court was £17,500.
Frances Jones, representing Williams-Bates, 24, said his client had no assets, debts to his bank and mobile phone company and had no income after being dismissed by Royal Mail.
Williams-Bates, who admitted theft of a postal packet, had been employed by Royal Mail since 2007.
His father was also a postman.
"This is a substantial fall from grace," said Mr Jones.
"He is a keen family man and has done community work in the past, voluntarily, but all of that of course doesn't help the fact he has committed this offence," said Mr Jones.
Judge Paul Thomas ordered that Williams-Bates would not have to pay any contribution towards costs in the case.
"Bearing in mind your financial position and the difficulty you will have in gaining employment it would not be appropriate for you to pay the money," he told the defendant.
"You know better than most that the public have to have confidence in their postal system."
He then imposed a 12 month community order and a three month curfew order.