Inside the Horizon scandal: The true story behind new drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office

2 January 2024, 16:13 | Updated: 4 January 2024, 09:16

Between 1999 and 2015, over 700 people were wrongly prosecuted.
Between 1999 and 2015, over 700 people were wrongly prosecuted. Picture: Alamy
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

With the Post Office Horizon scandal being turned into a TV drama, what really happened and did the victims ever receive justice?

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Over 700 Post Office branch managers were given criminal convictions after the faulty Fujitsu accounting software, Horizon, made it look as if money was missing.

It has since been called the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history.

This has now been turned into a TV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which delves into some of those wronged who then cleared their names.

Read more: Post Office Horizon scandal victims to be offered £600,000 in compensation each

Read more: 'Worst miscarriage of justice': Post Office scandal tore families apart, inquiry hears

What was the Horizon Post Office Scandal?

Introduced in 1999, the IT system Horizon was seen as a "better way" for managers to handle their branch accounts.

Sub-postmasters quickly realised unexplainable discrepancies in their records but the Post Office dismissed these concerns as no one else was experiencing such issues.

Soon, the Post Office accused the sub-postmasters of taking the missing finances for themselves and started criminal proceedings.

In 2019 the High Court ruled that the software contained "bugs, eros and defects" with "material risk" which caused shortfalls in the Post Office branch accounts.
In 2019 the High Court ruled that the software contained "bugs, eros and defects" with "material risk" which caused shortfalls in the Post Office branch accounts. Picture: Alamy

How many people were affected by the Horizon Post Office Scandal?

Between 1999 and 2015, over 700 people were wrongly prosecuted. Wrongly accused managers were imprisoned, and financially ruined.

Some even took their own lives.

Who is Alan Bates?

Alan Bates was a sub-postmaster from Wales.

After being accused of fraud, he became an activist.

His journey to justice, which is still going, took tens of years and cost millions of pounds.

Mr Bates and five others from JFSA (Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance) took the post office to court on behalf of 555 claimants.
Mr Bates and five others from JFSA (Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance) took the post office to court on behalf of 555 claimants. Picture: Alamy

How did the victims of the Horizon Post Office Scandal receive justice?

Mr Bates and five others from JFSA (Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance) took the Post Office to court on behalf of 555 claimants.

In 2019 the High Court ruled that the software contained "bugs, errors and defects" with "material risk" which caused shortfalls in the Post Office branch accounts.

The Post Office was ordered to pay £58 million in compensation for the false prosecutions.

After legal costs, the 55 members were left with £12 million - around £20,000 each.

Currently, 93 convictions have been overturned and victims have been paid a total of £138 million in compensation.

Lawyers representing the victims say there is "more than enough evidence" for police to investigate senior staff members accused of covering it up.

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