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Subpostmasters won their David and Goliath battle, but initial goal still not reached

Despite exposing the Post Office Horizon scandal, Alan Bates, the former subpostmaster who drove the campaign for the truth, says the goal of repaying people what they lost has not yet been achieved

It is often overlooked by the media that it was the original 555 past and serving subpostmasters who spent years trying to expose the truth behind the Post Office and its Horizon system, so you could be forgiven for thinking this whole issue began at the overturning of a batch of convictions which led to the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history.

Undoubtedly, there was more drama at that point, and what was done to those victims was cruel and incredibly wrong, especially as there is now overwhelming evidence to show the Post Office and others knew how flawed Horizon was, and how unsafe the prosecutions had been, for many years. 

Yet when the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) began its campaign to expose the truth, overturning those convictions had not been the key goal, or even mentioned. However, from much of the media coverage, certainly of late, you would think its goal had been achieved.

But the story of the 555’s plight is still underway, and its original aim of obtaining financial redress for the harms the Post Office did to them has yet to be fulfilled, and will only be achieved once the group receives what they are owed to return them to a place they would have been in had the Post Office not been run by a bunch of out-of-control thugs.

Of the 555, 52 received convictions, usually for false accounting and occasionally for theft. To date, the majority of these have been quashed, and those victims now have other routes available to them to receive financial redress. Further to that, it has now been established that there were 736 subpostmaster convictions that may now be considered for overturning as they too were based on the Post Office’s flawed computer system.


•  See below timeline of Computer Weekly articles since it revealed the plight of victims in 2009  •


Removing those 52 who were convicted from the 555 leaves around 500 who were in dispute with the Post Office for a whole raft of other issues, and this fact always seems to be overlooked. So, what were those issues? 

You need to look at the findings from the first trial in the group litigation order in the High Court action, which began in November 2018, which considered common issues – matters relating to the contractual arrangement between the Post Office and subpostmasters – to see just how wrong the Post Office had been in its dealings with them. 

And it was the Post Office’s unchecked cavalier approach to using its flat-earth interpretation of its contractual arrangement with subpostmasters that resulted in the majority of the 500 losing their appointments and subsequently wrecking numerous lives and small businesses.

“The 555’s original aim of obtaining financial redress for the harms the Post Office did them has yet to be fulfilled, and will only be achieved once the group receives what they are owed to return them to a place they would have been in had the Post Office not been run by a bunch of out-of-control thugs”

Alan Bates, former subpostmaster and founder of the JFSA

Why point this out at this time? While the mainstream media has found us, it may not last long with world events, but it has resulted in lots more ex-subpostmasters and their families hearing about the scandal for the first time, prompting many to contact the JFSA to ask what they can do about their own cases. 

Unfortunately, I have to inform them that there is no scheme open they can apply to, or any trustworthy independent organisation I can recommend they contact to assist. I normally refer them to their local MP, as many already have constituents who are victims of the Post Office.

This recent influx of new contacts raises the question of how many more ex-subpostmasters there may be out there who have yet to hear about the scandal.

Well, if there were 52 convictions among the 555 – roughly 10% – and we know the Post Office has identified 736 subpostmaster convictions, if those 736 are just 10% of the total of all subpostmasters terminated by the Post Office, does that mean that there are another 4,000 ex-subpostmasters out there who may have claims against the Post Office but are still not aware of the scandal? For example, 7,360 - 736 convictions - 2,500 in the Historic Shortfall Scheme = 4,000, roughly.

No doubt time, and letters to MPs, will tell.


Alan Bates is a former subpostmaster who was a victim of the Post Office Horizon scandal. In 2009, after he was interviewed alongside others by Computer Weekly, he set up the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA). This group, which eventually became a campaign group of 555 subpostmasters, defeated the Post Office in the High Court, proving that computer errors were causing the losses they were being blamed and punished for.

Timeline of the Post Office Horizon articles since Computer Weekly first reported on it in 2009

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