More Subpostmasters to get justice after ITV drama is aired

Following the airing of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office in early January, fifty more people have asked for legal advice, some of whom are former sub-postmasters whom the Post Office prosecuted between 1999 and 2015.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed on 5 January that its officers are now exploring “potential fraud offences” arising from the prosecutions, which appear to have been based on flawed evidence from the Horizon computer system.

However, following a recent turn of events, the Government confirmed its plans to introduce new legislation aimed at exonerating all the sub-postmasters and mistresses in England and Wales wrongfully convicted due to a defective computer system.

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More than 15 years on from the scandal the Department for Business and Trade has confirmed that there have been 983 UK-wide convictions, with 700 being Post Office prosecutions and 283 by the Crown Prosecution Service, since the Horizon System was installed in 1999.

While 95 convictions have been overturned, a further 54 cases resulted in a conviction being upheld, people being refused permission to appeal, or the person appealing withdrawing from the process.

During a landmark ruling in 2023, 39 convictions were overturned, mainly through the perseverance of the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JSFA), set up by Alan Bates in 2009.

Leading up to the court appearance, the JSFA worked with forensic accountancy firm Second Sight, which the Post Office had engaged in 2012 to look into the Horizon system.

However, far from upholding the Post Office’s assertion that it was “absolutely accurate and reliable”, the accountants’ interim report found two incidents where defects or bugs in the software “gave rise to 76 branches being affected by incorrect balances or transactions which took some time to identify and correct.”

Then in its second report, one of the accountants said he realised that they were potentially looking at “a significant number of miscarriages of justice due to a lack of effective investigation, multiple disclosure failures and conduct by prosecutors that needed to be considered by experts in criminal law and prosecutions”.

Roger Isaacs, Forensic Partner at Milsted Langdon, said: ““The latest decision by the Government is a testament to the perseverance of the JSFA but also highlights the role played by the critical forensic accounting investigations.

“Whilst more than a thousand former subpostmasters and subpostmistresses have received compensation, many more are in line to receive financial redress to compensate them both for the emotional injuries that they have suffered but also to restore their finances to the position in which they would have been had they not been wrongly treated by the Post Office.

“The compensation regime is complicated by virtue of the existence of three different schemes, the Historical Shortfall Scheme, the ability to claim damages for overturned convictions and the Horizon Group Litigation Order Scheme.

“Currently the existence of various technical and forensic accounting anomalies means that compensation will vary depending on which of the three regimes apply. It must be hoped that moves to try to overcome these to achieve consistency continue because without consistency there cannot be fairness.”



Sources: Guardian, Times,

Posted in The Forensic Blog.