Post Office scandal: A very good start to what comes next

Well, what can we say? Humbly, let’s start with a very big thank you to Little Gem, the TV production company that created Mr Bates vs the Post Office, and to ITV for broadcasting the drama at prime time during a week when everyone would be at home in front of the telly.

It has been a surreal start to 2024. Crazy – but crazy good. Thanks to the drama series, our friend Alan Bates has become a household name. Alan first contacted Computer Weekly in 2004 – 20 years ago – looking for someone to take seriously his accusations that the Horizon IT system installed in his Post Office branch had caused accounting errors. It took another five years – and an investigation that uncovered others like Alan, but who had also been prosecuted and seen their lives destroyed – before Computer Weekly became the first publication anywhere to reveal the truth about what the whole of the country now knows as the Post Office scandal.

It’s been fifteen years and approaching 400 Computer Weekly articles published in that time, exposing further details about the bugs in Horizon and the egregious – and most likely unlawful – behaviour of Post Office staff. For everyone in our team – and in particular, chief reporter Karl Flinders who wrote the vast majority of those articles – it has been quite an experience to be involved in the enormous media storm and public outrage that has finally, finally, realised the full, awful horror of what the thousands of subpostmaster victims have been put through.

Most of all, we are absolutely delighted to see those victims being taken seriously and listened to at the very top of government and civil society. It’s about time. We hope it’s not too churlish to say, quietly, where have you all been? But that’s for another day – this day is for the victims.

It’s not over yet, not by a long way. The government intends to exonerate the victims – but as ever, the devil will be in the details. Then, full and proper compensation needs to be paid, and swiftly – no more prevarication and delays. And finally, those in the Post Office and Fujitsu who were responsible for this appalling scandal need to be exposed and held accountable for their actions. It’s not about Paula Vennells’ CBE – much as that has been a lightning rod for public anger. It’s about people in the Post Office who lied, covered up evidence, and then doubled down on the lies and the cover up even as Computer Weekly and others exposed the truth.

But today – our hearts and hopes go out to the victims. We have been, and will continue to be, with you all the way.

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