A stressed postal worker stashed more than 1,400 mail packets in his house after being unable to meet targets at work.
Robert Nightingale, 36, of Pope Lane, Penwortham, Preston, lost his job with the Royal Mail after investigators found he had delayed mail packets and parcels.
Preston Magistrates’ Court was told Nightingale, who had worked for the company for 18 years and has no previous convictions, had mostly squirrelled away junk mail but one letter had contained a medical appointment the patient had not received.
Police found the items, which had gone missing over a two year period, in a room at his home during a visit on October 1.
Prosecuting for Royal Mail, Peter Gilmour said some pieces of mail dated back to December 2013.
Nightingale admitted two counts of delaying a package or mail bag while employed as a postal operator and received a suspended jail term.
The first charge, which involves 322 packets, relates to a period between December 12, 2013 and October 2, 2015.
The second involves 1,100 packets and relates to a period between May 1, 2014 and October 2, 2015.
Sources told the Evening Post Nightingale, a married father-of-two, had felt “under pressure” to meet increasing workloads and quotas, and had told his boss.
He fell behind with his deliveries but felt he couldn’t take it back to the depot because of ‘targets’.
Postmen were paid £20 a week extra for delivering junk mail.
Nightingale, who is now hoping to gain work as a scaffolder, was unavailable for comment at his home, but his defence lawyer, Paolo Passerini said: “Stresses of the job, brought about by increases in workload as a consequence of privatisation led to this man of previous good character, losing his job, and losing his good name.
“Essentially this is all because he was, due to the pressures related to significant increases in workload, unable to complete his round without failing to deliver any of the mail allocated to him as required. He felt unable to return any undelivered mail to the depot as this would affect performance targets set by the Royal Mail and consequently he took undelivered mail home and stored it until it was discovered by management.”
A spokesman for Royal Mail said: “It is a criminal offence to tamper with or delay the delivery of mail and anyone caught doing so will face serious disciplinary measures.
“Royal Mail will always seek to prosecute the tiny minority of people who abuse their position of trust.”
The case has raises debate about the pressures on postal staff.
The amount of junk mail delivered by postal workers since Royal Mail was sold off by the Government has spiralled.
According to a national newspaper, more than 8.7 million flyers were delivered by the firm in the year following privatisation, meaning staff delivered almost 50,000 more leaflets and advertising letters every single day, compared to the previous year.
Almost 3.2 billion items of ‘unaddressed’ junk mail were also delivered in just 12 months – almost double the 1.7 billion delivered annually five years ago, and not including the vast quantities of ‘addressed’ junk mail also delivered, which have the names of occupants on the envelope.
Whilst the practice is profitable for Royal Mail as it faces competition from other parcel couriers, and a fall in traditional mail being posted, it has raised criticism for a number of reasons including pressure on staff and the resulting environmental problems caused by the mountain of thrown away mail.