Mr Bates vs. The Post Office (2024) s01e01 Episode Script

Episode 1

Well, I tend to go for a seven
for double knitting
cos my tension's too tight.
- But seven-and-a-half, I think, yeah.
- Ta, love.
One first-class stamp there, Megan.
- 28p, please, love.
- How much?
I know, daylight robbery.
That's the Post Office for you.
Oh, Alan? Alan.
- Alan Bates?
- Management.
Oh, thugs in suits.
You know why we're here, Alan.
And you know you're a day early.
Oi! There's a queue here.
I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen,
but this post office is now closed.
Er, not yet, it isn't.
That's 2.39, Tom, please.
Alan, come on.
Let us in, please. Yeah?
If you'd like to make an appointment
for after
my so-called contract ends,
I shall inspect my diary
for a window.
We have a right of entry.
I'm the sub-postmaster,
so I am locked in,
and everyone else is locked out.
So if you want to see my accounts'll have to come back tomorrow.
Come on. We're gonna need some help.
I'm calling the police.
- Sorry about that, Tom.
- Hello. Police, please?
I'm calling
from Craig-y-Don Post Office.
They're not calling me a thief.
They wouldn't dare.
They say money's somehow
gone missing from this branch,
which it hasn't,
and I have to pay it back,
which I won't.
So I say prove it.
Prove that I'm wrong
and you're right.
Show me the figures, but
they can't or won't do that.
So now they want to close me down
to shut me up
That's ridiculous!
..because they don't want everyone
knowing what I know.
Which is?
That the fancy new computer system
that they've spent
an arm and a leg on is faulty.
No-one else has ever reported
any problems with Horizon. No-one.
I don't believe you.
So no actual crime
has been committed here today?
Well, Post Office Limited
is stealing, er, my livelihood,
my shop, my my job, my home,
my life savings, my good name.
Civil matter.
Be getting back to the day job.
Might wanna come back tomorrow, sir.
How exactly do you sleep at night?
Same time tomorrow?
It can't be just us, can it?
- Morning, Marion!
- Morning, Jo.
All right?
- Hello, Jo. You all right?
- All right?
- Morning, Jo.
- Hello, Jo.
- Morning, Jo.
- Morning, Jo.
All right, Trevor, Nadia?
- Hi, Elaine!
- You look nice, Jo.
- Morning.
- With you in a minute.
- No rush.
- Morning, Jo.
Ooh, you smell good.
Don't turn your back!
They'll all be gone.
What's the matter, Diane?
I can't find it anywhere.
It's my pension book.
- I can't can't find it anywhere.
- You haven't lost your pension book.
- I keep it in my drawer, remember?
- Oh
Sorry! Spinning plates.
Well, it's as much as I can do
to get myself into court
every morning with my hair brushed.
Er, a dozen first-class, please.
Whisper it, legal eagle,
but I'm happier baking.
accounts and computers
- not so much.
- Mm.
There you go.
- Thanks, Jo.
- Have a good day.
No, job, no income,
nowhere to live.
All our hopes, dreams.
All our savings down the pan.
It's killing us, Alan.
My hair's actually falling out.
I'm not letting
the Post Office get away with it.
They already did.
Come on. Concentrate.
Well, I
I'm thinking somewhere quiet.
Up in the hills.
I can walk, you can paint.
Am I not allowed to walk?
Just tell me how we're going
to afford any of these places.
We'll work. It's what people do.
Now, come on, Suzanne.
If we're going to walk away, let's
do it with our heads held high.
And so they head off
into an uncertain future.
On the plus side
it won't be us hanging around
on the phone any more.
"Horizon helpline,
thank you for waiting."
Oh, no!
'Horizon helpline,
thank you for waiting.'
- 'Hello, how can I help?'
- Oh, hi.
Er, it's Jo Hamilton here
from South Warnborough.
I'm trying to produce
this week's cash account.
'And what's the problem?'
I know it's probably me because
I'm really rubbish with technology,
but I've declared my cash,
I've declared my stock,
I've done it all three times,
and I still can't get it to balance.
I hate Wednesdays.
'Hm. And what does Horizon say?'
It says I've taken £2,032.67 more
than I think I have.
'OK, redeclare your stock holding.
'So, that'll automatically create
a discrepancy, OK?
'It'll have inflated
your cash holding.
'So now I want you to reverse
that difference.'
'So now, if you redeclare
everything, it'll balance, OK?'
This is so helpful, thank you.
Don't go away,
stay with me till I've done it.
Oh, my God!
It I-It's just doubled
right in front of my eyes.
Now Now it says I'm £4,000 down.
'It'll sort itself out,
these things do.
'In the meantime'
But I was only doing
what you told me!
'In the meantime,
you'll need to make good the loss.'
I haven't got that money!
And I don't know where it's gone!
'I'm sorry, you are responsible
for balancing your account
'and making good any shortfalls.'
You did your best, love.
Well, I wrote a lot of letters.
MPs, ministers,
Post Office chairman,
Daily Telegraph, Computer Weekly.
I'd have thought they'd have shown
an interest, at least.
We're putting it behind us now.
- Er, I thought we were walking away?
- Back burner.
We did say I could have
that spare room for my sewing room.
No problem!
- Alan?
- Up here!
- Careful!
- Give us a hand.
Do we really need to be keeping
all of these?
Just in case. I'll, er
I'll go through them all later.
Mind your back.
- There's nothing wrong with my back.
- Yeah, not yet.
All put away, sorted.
Almost forgotten.
Hm, maybe things
are starting to look up.
Shall we investigate the local pub?
Things are definitely
starting to look up.
No, no, no, no, no.
'I'm sorry, Mum.
'There's nothing left
to take out of my wages.'
My savings are already gone.
My credit cards are maxed out.
I know I should have told you
but I didn't wanna scare you.
It's all right, love.
You're her husband.
Tell her it's all right.
I don't know.
Jo how did the post office money
get lost?
What is it you've been doing wrong?
I don't know either. I have no idea.
Oh, I don't wanna cry.
I kept thinking, one day,
some kind of electronic wizardry
would kick in
and it would just sort itself out,
but it never has.
And now the computer says my
shortfall's gone up to £9,000, so
Remortgaging the house, though?
I know what I'm suggesting
is really awful.
But, David, there's
the 40-year lease on the shop,
and if they sack me,
we'll lose everything.
This house. Our home.
I have to make good my shortfalls.
It says so in my contract.
I have to find the money
to pay them back.
If it draws a line under it.
'Horizon helpline,
thank you for waiting.
'All our agents are busy right now,
but please continue to hold.'
- Dad? I can't find my trainers.
- Have you looked under your bed?
Have a look.
'Horizon helpline,
thank you for waiting.'
Hi, yeah. It's, er
It's Lee Castleton here again,
er, from Bridlington.
- Yeah, look me up, it's all there.
- 'OK, hold on.'
Thank you.
- Daddy!
- Yeah, just go and ask your mum, love.
'OK, yeah. I've got your file here.'
Yeah, right.
Now, you'll see from my records,
this is the 91st time I've called
you about these shortfalls.
'Yeah, it's odd. No-one else
is having these problems.'
I-I still can't make any sense
of these figures.
You know, I still wonder, someone
might have hacked into my account.
'No, no, no, that's impossible.
'Branch accounts
are totally secure.'
OK, right. So, if it's definitely
something that I'm doing wrong,
please can you just tell me what?
'So you wanna request a visit
from the auditors?'
Yes, yes! Finally, thank you.
- They'll get to the bottom of it.
- Off to school.
All right. Have a good day, kids.
Right, I'm, erm
Listen, I'm gonna
I'm gonna to write it down now,
so, yeah, they'll definitely
be calling me, right?
'What you need to do
is isolate your transaction.
'You need to put in a number
that is one digit higher or lower,
'or the computer won't find it.'
How's that supposed to work?
'I don't know, it just works.
Do it.'
Last time it showed a loss,
I had to remortgage my house.
I can't understand
why it's happened again.
'Me neither.
Nobody else has these problems.
'You know, you must balance tonight,
or you can't open in the morning.'
I have to open in the morning,
my old ladies rely on me.
'So, one digit higher or lower.
'Your takings must match
your balance on your Horizon'
God forgive me.
'I'll be fine, Mrs Goggins.
The post always gets through.'
Mummy? Mummy?
Mummy, they're leaving.
Mummy's just nipping down to see
Daddy. I'll be back in a minute.
Thanks for all your help, yeah?
Did they find the problem?
£26,000 has gone missing.
- You what?
- Twenty-six grand.
Let's go through those figures again,
right now. - I'm not allowed.
- Hey?
- Suspended.
Locked out my own post office
till I pay it all back.
What are we gonna do?
Whatever it is you're reading,
you're doing it
in an annoyingly significant manner.
Year one of the degree,
there's a core foundation course
including programming
and problem solving.
Let's see?
Oh, God! Computer science?
Why don't you do English
or philosophy?
Computer science is good.
It's career planning.
In which case,
why not aromatherapy
or golf club management?
And my student grant will help
keep this roof over our heads.
Also, we'll be able
to set up a website people will be able to find us.
Meaning sub-postmasters?
Three years
since we lost the Post Office
and, "Come on, Suzanne,
we're walking away."
Has a single day gone by when
you've thought about anything else?
I got a job.
Cleaning. Offices.
I start next week.
No shame in it, is there?
One day
One day, what?
..we'll get the bastards.
Right, Millie, you've been quiet all
the way home.
- What's bothering you?
- Don't tell her.
Er, don't tell me what?
That boy made a big spit
in Millie's hair.
He did what?
The same one who said Dad stole lots
of money off old people.
You know that's not true, OK?
Your dad is not a thief.
He's not.
Go on, go upstairs. Go and play.
I'll be up in a minute, OK?
Now, look at this! Look, look!
I've been through these 100 times.
I haven't seen it before. Look.
I'm gonna have to talk
to the school.
23rd of March, right?
I'm logged in on terminal one.
I put in the transaction
and it shows up on terminal two.
That should never happen.
That's proof!
It's proof there's something wrong
with the system!
Lee. The children.
The bullying is getting worse.
I know.
The only way to stop it
is to prove that I'm not a thief.
Right? It must be a bug.
It must be
It must be a computer bug or
or something.
- Right.
- What are you doing?
Lee? Look, there's
15,000 post offices on that list.
Are you just gonna randomly
call them all up
and ask if their computer is broken?
How else am I gonna find someone
with the same problem
before my case goes to court?
I've got to show 'em
it's not just me.
Lisa, the Post Office are suing us
for £26,000 which we didn't steal
and we haven't got hanging around
in piggy banks.
'Hello, Oxford Road Post Office.'
Hello, yeah.
I'm really sorry to bother you.
My name's Lee Castleton, and I
'Sorry, mate,
I don't take cold calls.'
It's all right,
I'll just call the next one.
- Jo!
- Don't come in here, Mum.
Well, you can't keep working
these hours.
You'll kill yourself.
Oh, Jo. Love
I don't know what I'm doing wrong.
I keep trying over and over,
and I can't make it work.
The numbers,
they just slide away from me,
and I don't know where the money is.
I don't know where it's gone.
They need to send someone down here
to sort this out.
No, no, they'll sack me!
Oh, Jo You need help.
Mrs Hamilton?
I'm Ryan Fleming,
from the investigations team?
- Thank you.
- I'll need those keys.
Oh, of course, yes.
Morning, Jo!
- What's going on?
- Nothing!
Mrs Hamilton,
are you surprised to learn
that the audit you requested
found a shortfall
of £36,644.89?
I've never been able
to get to grips with the system,
and when I tried to get help
As you must know,
your contract with us
makes clear
losses are your responsibility.
Like, once, I was on the phone
to the helpline,
and it doubled, it just doubled,
the shortfall, before my very eyes.
Mrs Hamilton, this is public money.
We need to talk about
how you are gonna pay it back.
Sizing this place up
for the bailiffs?
Let me tell you,
this house is my house, too,
so you can keep
your thieving hands off it.
And tell your evil bosses I said so.
The shortfalls we uncovered today
do not appear in any of the weekly
accounts you've been submitting.
My daughter is not a thief.
- A formal investigation will follow.
- No, can I just say something?
Why would I do this?
I love my post office.
Until then, I'm suspending you,
Mrs Hamilton, with immediate effect.
Jo! Hello.
I think I might need a solicitor.
Oh, erm, but I do
I-I mainly just do criminal work?
That's good. That's great.
You do not have to say anything,
but it may harm your defence
if you do not mention
when questioned something
which you later rely on in court.
Anything you do say
may be given in evidence.
This is your cash account final
for Week 24.
Is that your signature?
No comment.
This is your branch trading
statement for period ten.
It states that the cash-in-hand
figure is £35,515.83.
Is that a true amount
of the cash on hand
for that transaction statement?
No comment.
Have you deliberately inflated
that cash figure
No comment. cover the fact that you've
been stealing Post Office money?
No comment.
Where's the money, Jo?
What have you spent it on?
No comment.
It was good to have a rehearsal,
I suppose
..before I have to do it properly
with the police.
With the police?
Well, they'll arrest me now,
for sure.
Jo, the Post Office
don't need the police.
The Post Office has the right to run
its own criminal investigations,
all the way to the Crown Court.
It's been that way for 300 years.
sub-postmaster Noel Thomas
'is tonight behind bars,
'starting a nine-month
prison sentence.'
He used to be a Federation man.
'Caernarfon Crown Court heard today
'that County Councillor Thomas
was previously regarded
'as honest, respectable, a pillar
of his community in Anglesey.'
'What did you do
with the money?'
'The 59-year-old
had earlier pleaded guilty
'to false accounting
involving sums up to £48,000.'
Did she just say £48,000?
Well, that's not the odd bit
of shortfall.
It's a hell of a lot of money,
And he's pleaded guilty, so
He didn't look guilty,
though, did he?
Looked bloody terrified.
How do we know what pressure
they're putting people under?
Everything all right?
What is it?
Royal Courts of Justice? In London?
I'll be the only one there
not wearing a wig.
- Oh, God, Lee
- It'll be fine, it'll be fine.
I'll just show the judge my logs,
and I'll explain about Horizon.
And I'll just tell the truth.
It'll be fine.
It's not a criminal court, is it?
They're just suing us for the money.
But, Lee, they'll have
so many big lawyers, and you
Yeah, I know, and I'll be
representing myself, yeah,
due to the fact I haven't got
a spare million quid to spend.
Look, Lisa, we've just got to trust
in the British justice system
and everything'll be all right.
I've just gotta tell the truth.
It's fine. Don't worry.
Right, erm
It's called a plea bargain.
The deal is the Post Office
will drop the theft charge
if you agree to plead guilty
to false accounting instead.
And the plea bargain
keeps me out of prison?
How is 14 charges
of false accounting
better than one charge of theft?
Theft is much bigger.
And if you fight it
and the jury is not on your side,
then you will go to prison.
Also, there are two conditions
to the plea bargain.
The Post Office say you have
to pay back all the money.
£36,000? How am I gonna to do that?
And you must undertake
not to blame the Horizon system.
Well, I am guilty, I am,
because I did sign
all those accounts
when I knew they were wrong.
But I never stole that money.
I never saw a penny of it.
Issy, I still don't know
where it went.
'Computers drive me mad.
'I never got used to Horizon,
and I won't say I love it now,
'but I can't claim
we've had any real problems, so'
No, no, I appreciate
you talking to me. Thank you.
- 'I've gotta go. Bye-bye.'
- All right. Bye-bye.
'Sorry about that,
I had to nip out the back.
'Everyone's scared to talk.
'There's just one guy
that can help.'
Hello, yeah. I I was hoping
to speak to, er, Alan Brown?
- 'You're Lee, right?
- I've been expecting your call.'
- Yeah.
- 'What happened here in Falkirk
'is that one of our terminals
'just stopped communicating
with the network.
'Horizon didn't pick it up,
no alarms were ringing.
'Some kind of bug.
'And that bug could be affecting
every office in the country
- 'with more than one terminal.'
- That's the same thing!
Exactly the same thing
that happened here.
You see, and they always tell you
you're on your own.
'Don't get too excited, laddie,
'cos I'm not going on record
wi' any of this.'
Well, no, I just thought
that's what you
'I've got thousands invested
in this business,
'and I can't afford to make
an enemy of Post Office Limited.'
Well, yeah, but what's the point?
'Look, I'll forward you
a group email I sent some friends.
'You can use that, if it helps.'
- Are you gonna send it now?
- 'Yes.'
All right. All right, thank you.
These so-called shortfalls,
they're not real.
Your system,
it produces them out of nowhere.
I'm a systems specialist employed
by Fujitsu, the manufacturer.
I was unable to identify any basis
on which Horizon
could have caused the losses.
Ah, no, no, you see, no,
I happen to know of another branch
where the same thing has happened.
You must ask Mrs Chambers
a question, Mr Castleton.
Oh, OK. Sorry.
Erm, just give me a
You mean the branch
at Callendar Square in Falkirk?
Yes, that's it, yeah.
The exact The exact same thing,
it's happening there.
I-I think we both have
the same computer bug.
Yes, but the problem
at Callendar Square arose
from an error in the Horizon system.
My Lord, there is no evidence
of any such thing
at Mr Castleton's branch.
No, no, no, it's the same thing.
It's a computer bug.
It's It's
The conclusion is inescapable
that the Horizon system
was working properly
in all material respects
and that the shortfall is real
That the losses must have been
caused by Mr Castleton's own error.
There will thus be a judgment
on the claim against the defendant
for £25,858.95.
The claimant is entitled
to their costs in the case,
and accordingly,
Mr Castleton is ordered to pay
all Post Office Limited's costs
in the total sum of £321,000.
All empty.
Come on, you two. Let's get inside.
'And that was me,
thinking I could fight 'em.
'And now the shop's gone
and we're stuck living above it
'because we can't sell it.'
Our proceeds will go
to the Post Office cos I'm bankrupt.
But, you know, I was an electrician
when I was in the RAF,
so at least I've still got a trade,
but it just means
I'm living out of me car a bit.
And people think
me wife's kicked me out,
but it's not that.
'It's not that, just, you know,
'gotta go where the work is,
don't you?'
Mr Castleton, I'm calling
about the computer logs you sent us,
- but
- Yeah, I'm sorry.
It's me going on at myself.
Yeah, I-I saw, erm an advert.
Er, "Free expert help
with any computer problems"?
Yeah, I'm still looking for answers,
you see.
I'm not an expert, I'm afraid,
I'm just a reporter.
- Mr Castleton
- 'Er, it's Lee.'
Lee, Lee, yeah.
Apart from the chap you spoke to
in Scotland,
do you know if this has happened
to anybody else?
Well, it must have done.
You know, it can't just be me.
Morning, Jo.
I've never even had
a parking ticket.
Shall we?
There we are.
Ten o'clock, Court One.
"For sentence, R v Hamilton."
Queen versus me.
I wonder if she knows?
The Post Office, the shop,
is at the heart of any community
like ours.
And Jo well, we all love her.
In some ways,
she's more of the priest than I am.
People confide in her,
and she can always tell
when someone's upset.
You see, we trust her,
and we just can't believe that any
of this was on purpose in any way.
Thank you, Mrs Leese.
Please stand up.
Mrs Hamilton, what exactly
are you doing in my court?
I don't know, sir.
I have a large number
of testimonials before me
from your community,
all of whom seem to be here today
as to your trustworthiness.
- I still have no idea.
- This wasn't just a muddle.
It turned into fraud.
It's a very serious state of affairs
for someone
in whom the public is entitled
to trust.
However, in light
of your previous good character
..I do not intend
to impose a custodial sentence.
You will be sentenced
to a Community Order for 12 months
and weekly meetings
with a probation officer.
- You're free to leave.
- Court, rise.
I can't believe
I'm not going to prison!
You're all right, you're all right.
Maybe she was scared, Alan.
Maybe she thought, "Put your hands
up, get a lesser sentence."
Yeah, and now
she's pleaded guilty in court.
Not everyone is as stubborn as you.
I'll get it.
Yeah, who's calling, please?
Oh, OK. Yeah. OK. Alan?
It's a reporter from Computer Weekly
who's read about that woman
in the paper,
and they want to talk to you
about Horizon.
Alan Bates.
I can see you contacted us
five years ago.
- Yeah, I'm sorry about that.
- Never mind. You're here now.
It's odd, because everyone thinks
of the Post Office
as sort of warm and cuddly.
You know, when I first got legal
advice, right at the very beginning,
I was warned that if I tried to take
them to court, even if I won,
the Post Office would just keep
appealing until I ran out of money.
Thank you.
But they never accused you
of any wrongdoing?
No, no, no.
They never tried to prosecute me.
You know what I think?
I think they knew that there was
something wrong with my system.
But, Rebecca
how many other sub-postmasters
have you found?
Six who will go on the record.
Plus you, if you're willing.
What do you think?
Course I will.
"problem seems to be affecting
a number of people.
"A seventh postmaster, Alan Bates,
refused to sign his weekly accounts,
"saying it would have made him
liable for any losses.
"He has called
for a public inquiry."
Oh, good luck with that.
Oh, you'll like this bit.
"A Post Office spokesman
said Horizon
- "is an extremely robust system"
- Ha!
"which operates over
our entire Post Office network"
"and successfully records
millions of transactions each day.
"There is no evidence that points
to any faults with the technology."
We had the evidence.
They wouldn't listen!
"We would always look into
and investigate
"any issues raised
by sub-postmasters."
- Turds.
- Josephine!
Well, honestly!
"We do accept
that individual branches
"may experience
very occasional failures."
Oh, yeah, right! I don't think so.
What else have they put?
This poor chap got sent to prison.
- Jo?
- Yeah!
Do you want a tea?
Yes, please.
'I couldn't believe it
when I first read about you.'
- Fallen postmistress.
- What a claim to fame!
Just the idea
that there was anyone else
caught up in the same trap.
I don't miss the Post Office.
Well, I miss the wages, but
17 years old
when I started as a postman,
delivering letters on my bike.
42 years, I worked for them.
Think of it. Man and boy.
Lord, Noel.
And they still sent you to prison.
All I heard the judge say was
"Nine months."
I couldn't believe it. I couldn't.
And then "Take him down."
Had my 60th birthday
behind bars, Jo.
It was hell on Earth.
I'm really glad you came.
Can you believe this chap?
Just kept refusing
to sign his accounts.
Kept refusing to pay.
Bloody hero.
'Oh, my God,
never in a million years
'would it have occurred to me
I could do that.'
They wrote off
my first so-called shortfall
when I jumped up and down
and complained about it.
- You never thought it was your fault?
- 'Never.'
Well, why am I such a fool?
I mean, I never even thought
about the computer,
except that it was weird
when they said I wasn't allowed
to blame it.
'I hope you don't mind me
getting in touch.'
I don't mind at all.
But, Jo can I ask you one thing?
Yeah, anything.
Why did you plead guilty?
'Oh, I didn't want to.'
Oh, my God, no, but
I really didn't wanna go to prison.
And I didn't know
how to prove I was innocent.
You shouldn't have to.
It's supposed to be
"innocent until proven guilty".
Yeah, right.
So, what do we do now?
'Alan? Any ideas?'
Thank you for waiting.
I guess I'll have my sewing room
in the next life, then.
- It won't be for long.
- Hm!
Bridlington, Hampshire,
Chelmsford, Somerset, Falkirk,
and two in North Wales.
That's the seven
from Computer Weekly.
Then there's, er
the two that came via our website.
But where are all the others?
I'm thinking, test the water.
Set up a meeting,
send out invitations,
- see if anyone turns up?
- Hm.
Somewhere central.
Birmingham? That's pretty central.
Fenny Compton.
- Fenny
- Compton.
- OK.
- Has a lovely ring to it.
Just the place to start
really annoying the hell
out of the Post Office.
808 inhabitants.
And a church hall.
I still think maybe Birmingham.
Nah. Today, Fenny Compton
tomorrow, the world.
You know
..this could be huge.
Or nobody might turn up.
But it's got to be worth a try.
Guessed on account of the cakes.
I wasn't sure how many to bring.
- Hi. Suzanne.
- Oh! Oh, hello!
- Hello.
- Oh, thank you.
We can always take them home
if nobody comes.
We'll give it 20 minutes.
Oh, wow.
Oh, wow. Alan, you did it!
Look at everyone!
Look at them all.
Are you all here for the meeting?
Yes, we are.
We're here for the meeting.
Well, you better come in, then.
- We all look knackered.
- That's cos we are.
Right. Er Well
Welcome, everyone.
We're all here
to share our experiences and
..put our heads together.
We're here because
..the Post Office
..told every single one of us
sat here today
..told us over and over
"You're the only one."
And that was wrong.
That was a lie, actually.
Because Well, look at us.
Here we all are.
And from this moment forwards
..none of us will be
the only one ever again.
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