On New Year's Day ITV will broadcast the first episode of Mr Bates vs The Post Office. A quick search on google reveals many are asking whether it is based on a true story. Unbelievable though it may seem, the answer is yes.
Yes, over 700 Subpostmasters did get convicted by the Post Office prosecutors on the basis of records from a faulty IT system installed in their branches called Horizon.
Yes, thousands of other Subpostmasters were made to pay back shortfalls wrongly created by the software, sometimes leading these innocent people to bankruptcy, losing their homes and businesses.
Yes, the Post Office tried to keep knowledge of the faults in the software from the Subpostmasters they were prosecuting, meaning these innocent people could not defend themselves properly.
Yes, most of those prosecuted, and many of those forced to pay illusory shortfalls, have still to receive proper compensation for their ruined lives and fewer than a hundred convictions have been overturned.
Yes, against the odds and in the face of fierce legal opposition from the Post Office lawyers, Alan Bates and colleagues from the JFSA (Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance) managed to win in the High Court, which eventually led to 39 Subpostmasters clearing their names in April 2021.
All of this is recounted - in gripping, page turning style - in The Great Post Office Scandal by Nick Wallis, the journalist who has been covering the story as it has unfolded over the past 14 years and who has also acted as Series Consultant on the drama. We first published the book in hardback in November 2021, then in paperback a year later, and it is still the definitive account of the roots of the scandal and the subsequent attempts to cover it up. The courtroom scenes from the trial in the High Court are especially enthralling.
So if you want to know more about how the scandal emerged and how Alan Bates took on the Post Office, you can buy direct from us or from your preferred online retailer using the link below. The book is available in paperback, hardback, ebook and as an audiobook:
Buy The Great Post Office Scandal
Is Mr Bates vs The Post Office based on a true story?