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Mr Bates Vs The Post Office: What Happened Next?

ITV’s hit four part drama, ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ helped to bring firmly to the Nation’s attention the heart-breaking injustice that many Sub-postmasters and Sub-postmistresses (SPM’s) endured for over two decades.

Bates v Post Office Ltd (POL)1 was the Group Legal Action that SPM’s took against POL. In this case, it was found by the High Court, that the original Horizon computer system (the multi-million pound system that had been designed by Fujitsu, for the Post Office to use in its Post Offices by SPM’s) had not been sufficiently robust, and that it in fact contained a number of bugs, errors and defects. These flaws led to inaccuracies in the SPM’s sub-post office’s financial accounts. This was something that the SPM’s had suspected for some time, but had never been able to prove, as POL had vehemently denied this. Instead, they placed blame for loss of money on the SPM’s.

This as we now know, led to hundreds of SPM’s being taken to court for criminal offences such as fraud and false accounting (or sued in the civil courts, including being made bankrupt). Some pleaded guilty in the hopes of not being given a custodial sentence (which was not always the case). Others fought against POL and put their hope in the Justice system believing that the truth would come out. Again, this was not always the case, with many convicted and being given custodial sentences.

Having been told by POL all along that they were the only ones who had had problems with Horizon, the wronged SPMs eventually joined forces and litigated against POL. In December 2019, the High Court in Bates2 found that the SPM’s had been right all along. The new system that POL implemented was not ‘robust’ as POL had continuously asserted.

Now that the Court had declared this – what would happen to those who had pleaded guilty or been convicted based on the false evidence that POL had provided about their system?

Well, in March 2020, the Criminal Cases Review Commission referred the Appellants’ cases (39 cases) to the Court of Appeal (Josephine Hamilton and others v POL3). In this case, POL conceded that the majority of Appellants’ did not have a fair trial (based on the High Court’s ruling in Bates4). However, the Post Office did not concede completely. They argued against the Appellants’ claim that it had be an affront to the Justice System and the public consciousness to bring the prosecutions at all. This is known as the ‘Limb II – abuse of process’ argument. Ultimately, the Court was in agreement with the SPM’s and in April 2021 it quashed the convictions of 39 SPM’s.

Seema Misra, Janet Skinner and Tracy Felstead, were three of the 39 who had their convictions quashed and are currently being represented by Hodge Jones and Allen at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry. All three were given custodial sentences following their convictions.

Tracy was just 19 years old at the time the Post Office pursued her for the ‘missing money’. She was convicted in 2002.

Janet, who had made 116 calls to the Horizon helpline during her time as a SPM in 2004 – 2005 became partly paralysed whilst in prison and now suffers with a lifelong disability.

Seema was 8 weeks pregnant at the time she went to prison in 2010.

It is believed that there are around 900 prosecutions5 in which the Post Office relied upon Horizon data, and by 2015 the Post Office secured 738 convictions using Horizon data6. However, the amount of convictions that have been quashed, is not even close to this amount.

Following ITV’s drama, the Government announced that they were looking to fast track the quashing of these convictions, by drafting legislation that would essentially exonerate each of the SPM’s that had been convicted wrongly. This is an unprecedented move and does raise some concerns over setting an unfavourable precedent for future non-post office related cases, along with undermining the independence of the Judiciary.

But for now, a Statutory Public Inquiry is underway looking into the failings associated with POL’s Horizon IT system, which ultimately led to one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in this country’s history.

The case of Bates v Post Office Ltd was the starting point in rectifying some of the injustice that hundreds of SPM’s suffered, but many are still a long way away from receiving any type of closure, or compensation.

The Crime Team at Hodge Jones & Allen have the privilege of representing 12 SPM’s as Core Participants in the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry and instruct barristers Ed Henry KC and Flora Page.

The Civil Liberties & Huma Rights Team and Dispute Resolution Team also represent SPM’s in respect of compensation claims.

If you are seeking legal advice about issues related to the Post Office Inquiry, please call us now on 0808 278 8389 or email us

1 Alan Bates and Others v Post Office Limited [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB)
2 ibid
3 Josephine Hamilton and others v POL [2021] EWCA Crim 577
4 Alan Bates and Others v Post Office Limited [2019] EWHC 3408 (QB)
5 Nick Wallis ‘The Great Post Office Scandal’ 1st Edition, Bath Publishing Limited, 2021, p500
6 Ibid, p498

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