Millions of people watched ITV’s drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, reigniting calls for victims of the Post Office Horizon scandal to receive their long-deserved justice and restitution.

For years I’ve pursued this important issue at Westminster, where powers over the Post Office lies.

In both March and June 2020, I called on the UK Government to launch a full independent public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal and I strongly supported victims in their pursuit of justice. 

Hundreds of innocent postmasters were prosecuted due to faults stemming from the Post Office IT system Horizon.

In the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history, more than 700 sub-postmasters were forced to either make large pay-outs to account for the alleged missing income or face prosecution and, for some, prison. Many refused to accept the false charges and were incarcerated. Others have since died or taken their own lives.

On January 22, 2020, and January 21, 2022, I backed Early Day Motions urging the UK Government to ensure that those who won civil proceedings against Post Office Ltd were not excluded from the Horizon compensation scheme. Such calls fell on deaf ears.

Last week, I again raised this matter at Westminster, twice, highlighting that whilst some victims died awaiting compensation, Post Office executives - including former CEO Paula Vennells - received over £1.6million in bonuses for their work on the inquiry into Post Office (ie their own) failings!

In the wake of this scandal, I fear that the Post Office’s reputation has been forever tarnished.

It's shameful that numerous current and former UK Government Ministers - Tory and Lib Dem - ignored repeated pleas to investigate. The Post Office is owned and overseen by the UK Government, which didn’t question Post Office Limited’s mass prosecution of its postmasters. The Crown Office was reportedly aware of issues with Horizon as early as 2013 and so ministers had ample opportunity over many years to ensure justice for victims.

Now, because the scandal was adapted into a TV drama, ministers are rushing to overturn the wrongful convictions, having until this point been content to do nothing while those responsible for the scandal were rewarded for their involvement.

Ms Vennells was awarded a CBE in 2019 for services to the Post Office, while legal action against the Post Office by 555 sub-postmasters was ongoing.

Fujitsu, who developed Horizon, has won more than 150 UK Government contracts since the scandal and even had its Post Office contract renewed last year. In addition, Fujitsu has avoided any financial penalties for its faulty software.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has confirmed that in Scotland, everyone convicted as part of the scandal will be cleared.

After so many years, victims will finally receive the justice they deserve. However, it’s a bittersweet victory. Had the UK Government acted sooner and cared sooner, those who have since died have been denied justice.

Sadly, because of government indifference the lives of innocent, hard-working sub-postmasters – and their families -  were ruined. For that, ministers are as culpable as the Post Office itself.