‘Despicable’: Viewers react to ‘blood-boiling’ ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office

Four-part series on a brutal British legal injustice features ensemble cast including Toby Jones, Will Mellor and Julie Hesmondhalgh

Nicole Vassell
Tuesday 02 January 2024 10:51 GMT
Comments
Mr Bates vs the Post Office trailer released

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Viewers of ITV’s latest drama series have shared their strong reactions to the depiction of the Post Office scandal, widely considered as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office began on ITV1 on Monday evening (1 January) and tells the story of the long and difficult battle for justice after hundreds of postal workers were accused of theft, fraud, and false accounting.

In 1999, a fault with the Post Office’s IT system (Horizon, by Fujitsu) incorrectly reported cash shortfalls in branches across the country, which led to hundreds of innocent postmasters and postmistresses being dismissed from their jobs, with some taking their lives due to the stress.

As of today, no Post Office executive nor Fujitsu employee has faced criminal investigation for their part in the fault.

British actor Toby Jones portrays the real-life title character Alan Bates, who has spent two decades fighting for recognition of the unfair treatment that he and his fellow postal workers have suffered.

As the first of four episodes aired, many people turned to social media to express their response to the programme, with many deeming it a “must watch”.

‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ on ITV
‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ on ITV (ITV PLC)

“Brilliant drama on ITV,” wrote one person on X. “Being falsely accused of wrongdoing and sacked with dubious processes is a very painful and damaging experience affecting the individuals and all their families too.”

Elsewhere on the social media platform, previously known as Twitter, viewers expressed how angry the programme had made them, due to the maltreatment of the workers.

One viewer wrote: “My blood is already boiling, and it’s 30 minutes in… People need to be in jail for this. The casual destruction of people’s lives is despicable.”

Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Apple TV+ logo

Watch Apple TV+ free for 7 days

New subscribers only. £8.99/mo. after free trial. Plan auto-renews until cancelled

Try for free
Julie Hesmondhalgh and Toby Jones in ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’
Julie Hesmondhalgh and Toby Jones in ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’ (ITV)

Similarly, another viewer reported their distress at an early stage of the show, writing: “Twenty mins into this ITV drama about the [Post Office Scandal] and my blood is boiling. Why has nobody been brought to account for destroying so many people’s lives?”

They added: “Highly watchable, and important programme about what is probably the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history. Alan Bates is an extraordinary man.”

In his review of the programme, The Independent’s TV critic Nick Hilton noted that the programme was in need of additional dramatic elements to distance itself from previously aired documentaries that have covered the case.

He wrote: “In its earnest and well-intentioned desire to vindicate the sub-postmasters, Mr Bates vs the Post Office focuses too much on the story and too little on the telling.”

You can read the review in full here.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in