The Great British Post Office scandal, explained

An ornate red post box in Liverpool, UK [Phil Noble/Reuters] Public fury over a scandal which has ruined the lives of hundreds of British postal workers has reignited after a TV drama based on the affair was broadcast in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the new year. Faulty computer software resulted in some 230 post office workers being imprisoned on false charges of theft and fraud. Thousands of others were accused of similar misdeeds. Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The Real Story chronicled sub-postmaster Alan Bates’s legal battle against the Post Office, which had falsely accused him and some 3,500 others of defrauding the UK’s postal service. Following the airing of the four-part mini-series, the number of signatures on a long-running petition calling for an official honour to be stripped from former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells rocketed to more than one million. It had the desired effect. On Tuesday, Vennells bowed to pressure and pledged to “return my CBE with immediate effect”. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also weighed in, promising that the 700-plus postal workers who were prosecuted for crimes they never committed would “get the redress that they deserve”. What happened? Between 1999 and 2015, 736 Post Office branch managers were prosecuted and convicted of financial misconduct based on information generated by the organisation’s computing software. Horizon, the computer software which is still used by the Post Office today, wrongly indicated that sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses (the official titles given to post office managers) had been involved in a campaign of theft and false accounting, leading many to serve jail time. The miscarriage of justice came to light in 2019 when the High Court ruled that the Horizon software was to blame and the government ordered an inquiry into the affair in […]

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By Donato