New British TV series “Mr Bates vs the post office” looks set to bring to an end the long-running legal scandal in England.
Between 1999 and 2015, more than 900 UK postmasters were wrongly convicted of fraud, accounting offenses and theft.
Still more were falsely accused, had their contracts torn up, went bankrupt, and lost their homes and livelihoods.
– It's about many lives destroyed, and a lot of money wrongly claimed. “It's about a lot of politicians and civil servants who have somehow tried to sweep it under the carpet,” says James Savage, editor-in-chief of English-language newspaper The Local.
System error in Horizon
At the center is Horizon software, which was first used in the late 1990s by the Post Office, the state postal company. It was almost immediately apparent that the system was showing a false deficit.
However, the Postal Service denied wrongdoing – and took hundreds of postmasters, mostly small business owners and small business owners, to court. They have also asked for a refund.
Hundreds of victims sought relief for nearly 20 years. Only in 2019, a judge ruled that Horizon had deficiencies, and the Post Office reached a £58 million settlement with 555 former postmasters.
Judgments must be torn
Since then, the convictions of 93 have been overturned, but most have yet to be released or compensated.
However, a week after the drama series premiered, public pressure became increasingly fierce, with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announcing that all sentences should be revoked.
The bill, which has broad political support, effectively bypasses the normal legislative process.
– It's very unusual, and not everyone thinks it's fundamentally a good approach, but most agree that the injustice must be solved somehow and it must be done quickly, says James Savage.
“Passionate beer ninja. Extreme problem solver. Thinker. Professional web fan. Avid communicator. Hardcore troublemaker.”