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A multistage decoder for the internally convolutionally coded fibre-optic time-hopping code division multiple access system recently introduced is considered. In this system, the decoder consists of several stages. The first stage is implemented using one of the single-user decoders introduced. The following stages are maximum likelihood (ML) decoders each of which use the decisions made by the previous stage. The performance of the proposed decoder is evaluated by a Monte Carlo simulation. Numerical results show that a multistage decoder with only two stages greatly outperforms the single-stage decoder with negligible increase in complexity. The authors also derive the Chernoff bound for the ML decoder with known interference, which is the ultimate performance of the multistage decoder.