A POSTMAN who was sacked after being accused of stealing mail has won his case for unfair dismissal.

David Mitchell, a postman at Cupar delivery office in Fife, was accused of stealing greeting cards with money and gift vouchers inside despite bosses finding no clear evidence he had stolen them.

He was dismissed after 27 years' service with Royal Mail in December last year.

The 57-year-old, of Chance Inn, Fife, has now won his employment tribunal against the delivery firm, who have been ordered to reinstate him.

In a written judgment on the case, employment judge Ian McFatridge said: "The employer did not have reasonable grounds on which to sustain their belief in the claimant's guilt.

"There were simply insufficient grounds to come to that view. It therefore follows that the decision to dismiss is unfair."

The tribunal heard that in August last year, Royal Mail security investigator Colin Binnie discovered there was an unusually high number of losses being reported in Cupar in relation to greeting cards which had money or gift vouchers enclosed.

He decided to plant four test cards into the sorting system in Cupar and one of the cards was not returned from the route belonging to Mr Mitchell.

Mr Binnie focused his attention on the postman and a further two cards were inserted into sorting areas used by Mr Mitchell and again one disappeared.

The investigator and his team then decided to carry out surveillance on Mr Mitchell after planting further test cards.

The judgment states: "Mr Binnie and his colleagues followed the claimant in his van. They kept him under as close surveillance as they could."

Occasionally he was out of sight when carrying out deliveries and he went home for lunch where they then watched his house.

The judgment adds: "They waited until he left the small village where he lived and then stopped him and escorted him back to the delivery office.

"The claimant was personally searched. His van was searched and his own personal car was also searched. No trace was found of the test postal items."

The investigation team also searched his home and found no trace of the items.

At his disciplinary hearing, Mr Mitchell argued that someone else within the delivery office could have taken the items from his sorting areas, but this was rejected.

The theft was also reported to the procurator fiscal, who decided against proceeding with the case.

Judge McFatrdidge said: "In this case at the end of the day all that the employers had to go on was that these items had been placed in some way into the mails which, in the ordinary way of things, the claimant would be the postman called upon to process.

"The items had then gone missing.

"In those circumstances the crucial which had to be considered by anyone investigating the situation was the extent to which others might possibly have had access to and thus opportunity to steal these test items."

However, the judge added he could not say whether the claimant did or did not steal the items.

A Royal Mail spokeswoman said: "We have studied the judgment in this case and are seeking a reconsideration hearing on the reinstatement of this ex-employee. Royal Mail has a zero tolerance approach to any dishonesty. It is a criminal offence to tamper with or delay the delivery of mail and anyone caught doing so faces serious disciplinary measures. The safety and security of mail is of the utmost importance to this business.”