Mr Bates vs The Post Office

Mr Bates vs The Post Office

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A miscarriage of justice in real life, but dramatized

The increase in the cost of stamps is not the major scandal associated with the Post Office in recent years.

Unfortunately, this British institution has been involved in something worse than this which you can further discover in Mr Bates vs The Post Office. This new 4-part drama series is now available to watch on PBS in the US, while viewers in the UK can watch the programme on ITVX.

This was referred to as “the broadest miscarriage of justice” ever witnessed within Britain’s legal system. After watching this series, you will fully comprehend why. While a few names have been changed and certain scenes made up, it still portrays some true incidents that will infuriate and captivate you.

Between 1999 and 2015 more than 900 people who had run post offices were prosecuted for theft or fraud; some went to prison while others had to repay money they were alleged to have taken.

But here’s what: these sub-postmasters did not steal any money at all. It was Fujitsu’s Horizon accounting software provided by Post Office that failed them. Subsequently, this software wrongly calculated their daily earnings leading to wrong shortages.

When they called Horizon helpline, these sub-postmasters were told it was not a problem with the software but rather their own fault. A complete lie because Fujitsu knew there was something wrong with its Horizon software.

It’s believed that senior executives at Post Office also knew about these issues. One such person was ex-boss Paula Vennells who was secretly recorded being told about faulty software and individual Fujitsu UK based employees could remotely enter each Horizon system. The last bit mentioned is important since sub-postmasters had been informed that only themselves could access Horizon terminals located in their offices at various branches of Post Offices across UK thus indicating some possible involvement by Fujitsu staff members who may have tampered with accounts.

Horizon’s fault led to many sub-postmasters going bankrupt. Some died while others lost their means of survival.

However, one man couldn’t take the might of this institution lying down. He was a simple post office worker, Alan Bates, who quit his job after being accused by the management that he had caused his branch’s financial loss. Instead of disappearing into oblivion silently, he united with other sub-postmasters and campaigned for justice.

Toby Jones takes on Alan in Mr Bates vs The Post Office as part of the re-telling series. Played by Monica Dolan is Jo Hamilton another sub-postmaster in the show – who faced robbery charges but later pleaded guilty to false accounting so that she could avoid being imprisoned.

These are just two individuals featured on it but there are many others, all with one thing in common; they were accused of embezzling money from the Post Office and therefore disgraced.

Not all victims of the scandal have their stories retold –there are too many to count (something we would never let Horizon do) – but the program focuses on a few. It also takes us to Post Office headquarters where it is shown that the management tries to conceal their complicity in the injustice.

The programme is heart-breaking, moreover, because of its talented cast who bring out those people whose lives were destroyed by their superiors. The actors skillfully show how these victims went through much mental trauma and still managed to be resilient when confronting their employer.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office at its core is a classic David and Goliath tale. In this real-life story however Alan Bates portrays David, who confronts his towering opponent in search for truth and justice.

We do not want to go into every single detail here. UK viewers may already know about the scandal while those from America or any other part of the world, who probably have less information concerning activities that have taken place, will find out much from viewing this program.

But while Mr Bates vs The Post Office doesn’t wrap up things, it does sum up most of what has transpired in recent years within its running time. So watch it then; get annoyed and thereafter resist unfair treatment meted out on you by some people.

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