On 23rd April 2021, the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of 39 former Subpostmasters and ruled their prosecutions were an affront to the public conscience. It is a scandal that has been described as one of the most widespread and significant miscarriages of justice in UK legal history.
The 39 were just a few of the 738 people who, between 2000 and 2015, had been prosecuted by the Post Office for theft, false accounting and fraud. The prosecutions were based largely on evidence drawn from Horizon, the Post Office's deeply flawed software system that threw up duplicate entries, lost transactions and made erroneous calculations. If these errors resulted in apparent losses, Subpostmasters were forced to settle the discrepancies from their own pockets, sometimes for tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. Those who could not pay were sacked and taken to court. Proud pillars of their communities were stripped of their jobs and livelihoods. Many were forced into bankruptcy and or borrowed from friends and family to give the Post Office thousands they did not owe. The really unlucky ones were sent to prison.
This is the story of how these innocent people fought back to clear their names against a background of institutional arrogance and obfuscation, a fight dragged out by the Post Office's refusal to accept responsibility for its failings.
Nick Wallis, an award-winning freelance journalist and broadcaster, has been pursuing this story since 2010 when he met a taxi driver who told him his pregnant wife had been sent to prison for a crime she did not commit. Since then, he has recorded interviews with dozens of victims, insiders and experts, uncovering hundreds of documents to build up an unparalleled understanding of the story.
Using these sources, Nick has been instrumental in bringing the scandal into the public eye. He broadcast his first investigation for the BBC in 2011. In the same year that he took the story to Private Eye. He has subsequently made two Panoramas, a Radio 4 series, and raised thousands of pounds to crowdfund his own court reporting for the Post Office Trial website.
Nick has now written the first definitive account of the scandal. He takes us from the ill-fated deal that brought Horizon into existence, through years of half-truths and obstruction, to the tearful scenes at the Court of Appeal this year. He exposes the secrecy and mistrust at the heart of the story, and the impact that had on the victims. He also chronicles how this story's hero, Alan Bates, started as a lone public voice of dissent but went on to beat the Post Office - against overwhelming odds - at two of the highest courts in the land and win some redress for the victims.
"An extraordinary journalistic expose of a huge miscarriage of justice." - Ian Hislop, Editor, Private Eye.
"The definitive account of the scandal - from the journalist who pursued every twist and turn." - Mishal Husain, Broadcaster.
"Beautifully written. Full of heart rending detail, clarity and insight." - Patrick Spence, Creative Director, ITV Studios.
"Nick has come to understand the ultimately destructive management culture which pervaded the Post Office from the top down." - Tom Hedges, former Subpostmaster.
"A tale brilliantly told by Nick Wallis, who has dedicated years of work to establishing what happened, why it happened and calling those responsible to account. I urge you to read it." - Rev Richard Coles, Presenter.
"Nick's narrative has the power of a great thriller as he lays bare the lies and deceit that has ruined so many lives." Dame Joan Bakewell, Journalist.