VIEWERS across Wales were left in disbelief during the latest episode of the gripping ITV drama, “Mr Bates vs The Post Office,” which shed light on the alleged tampering of the secure £1 billion IT system by Fujitsu staff.
The series, based on the real-life saga of postmaster Alan Bates, portrayed how innocent subpostmasters, accused due to the faulty Horizon system, faced charges of theft, fraud, and false accounting.
One of those postmasters was a former sub-postmaster from north Pembrokeshire who was caught up in the scandal. In 2021 he had had his conviction for false accounting overturned.
Tim Brentnall, from Roch, was prosecuted in 2010 after a £22,000 shortfall was discovered at his branch. He is one of 736 former Post Office managers prosecuted due to the flawed Horizon computer system. Mr Brentnall told The Pembrokeshire Herald at the time that it had taken 16 years of stress to clear his name.
The second episode of the series, which is available on ITV Player, depicted a scene that left viewers ‘sickened.’ It revealed how Fujitsu, hired by the Post Office, remotely altered subpostmasters’ financial figures without their knowledge. The shocking revelation contradicted the Post Office’s prosecution strategy, which asserted that no one could access the tills without the subpostmasters’ awareness.
Actor Toby Jones, portraying Alan Bates, led the campaign to expose what is now considered the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history. The series highlighted the injustice faced by innocent subpostmasters, including Michael Rudkin (played by Shaun Dooley), who had been wrongly convicted due to the faulty Horizon system.
Former Fujitsu engineer Richard Roll, a whistleblower who exposed remote access to accounts in 2015, was part of a team of 30 engineers with access to terminals remotely. The mounting pressure from Bates’ Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) group, backed by several MPs, prompted the Post Office to launch an independent investigation.
As investigator Bob Rutherford delves into the scandal, the episode unfolds with shocking revelations. Subpostmistress Saman Kaur pleads guilty to charges, revealing problems arising after receiving a new Horizon PIN pad. Other victims, Jo Hamilton and Noel Thomas, admit guilt, prompting calls for a change in pleas.
The narrative takes a dramatic turn in Hampshire, where MP James Arbuthnot discusses justice plans with Jo Hamilton, uncovering two additional cases in his constituency. The episode exposes a second JFSA meeting, where Michael Rudkin reveals his visit to Fujitsu HQ, exposing the potential for remote access to branch accounts.
However, the drama intensifies when Angela, Head of Network Systems at the Post Office, denies the allegations, claiming Mr. Rudkin had only been taken to a ‘Test Environment.’ The investigator’s pursuit of the truth becomes challenging as he faces skepticism and resistance.
The episode concludes with viewers expressing their disgust at the revelations, questioning the collaboration between Fujitsu and the Post Office. Social media platforms were flooded with comments condemning the actions depicted in the drama, with many calling for justice to be served.
The series has received widespread praise since its New Year’s Day premiere, providing a poignant portrayal of the Post Office scandal. As the investigation continues, the nation awaits further revelations that could reshape perceptions of this unprecedented miscarriage of justice.