The shocking true story behind Mr Bates Vs The Post Office

Toby Jones goes postal in a new drama based on real events

The cast of Mr Bates Vs The Post Office stand together holding signs against a red background.
Mr Bates Vs The Post Office is coming to ITV in the New Year. (ITV)

British actor Toby Jones heads to ITV for Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, a new four-part drama chronicling an unbelievable David and Goliath story that was ripped straight from the headlines.

Based on actual events, ITV’s latest tells the real-life story of how several postal workers were wrongly accused and later charged with numerous fraud crimes all thanks to a faulty IT system.

While their names have since been cleared and many of the charges dropped, the lasting impact this tumultuous experience had on the personal lives of those involved was not so easily forgotten.

What else do we know about the show? Here’s all the information you need.


When is Mr Bates Vs The Post Office on TV?

Toby Jones stands on a grassy piece of land next to a sign that reads 'Welcome to Fenny Compton'.
Toby Jones plays former sub-postmaster Alan Bates. (ITV)

The first episode of Mr Bates Vs The Post Office aired at 9pm on Monday, 1 January 2024 on ITV and ITVX.

The remainder of the show’s three episodes will air at the same time over the next three days, taking viewers up to Thursday, 4 January.

Immediately after the final episode airs, the channel will release a brand new documentary chronicling the same subject, with Mr Bates Vs The Post Office: The Real Story starting at 10.45pm on Thursday, 4 January.

BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Lead claimant Alan Bates (centre) speaking outside the High Court in London, after the first judgment was handed down in claims against the Post Office over its computer system. (Photo by Sam Tobin/PA Images via Getty Images)
Lead claimant Alan Bates (centre) speaking outside the High Court in London, after the first judgment was handed down in claims against the Post Office over its computer system. (Getty Images)

This insightful extended-look will offer exclusive interviews with key people who were impacted by the incident, along with news clips from the time and information on the effect the whole event had on those who were forced to live through it.


Is there a trailer for Mr Bates Vs The Post Office?

A first-look trailer for Mr Bates Vs The Post Office arrived in early December, just a few weeks before the show is due to land on ITV and ITVX.

Sombre in tone, it hit home the harrowing repercussions this technical error had on the postal workers who received the blame, calling the situation “The largest miscarriage of justice in British history.”

Watch it below:


Is Mr Bates Vs The Post Office based on a true story?

Alan Bates, former Sub-postmaster, Founder, Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee of the subject of the Post Office and Horizon scandal. Picture date: Tuesday December 14, 2021. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Alan Bates, former Sub-postmaster and Founder of Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee of the subject of the Post Office and Horizon scandal. (Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Mr Bates Vs The Post Office is indeed based on a true story.

Back in the early 2000’s The Post Office introduced a new technical system called Horizon that was intended to make the day-to-day jobs of Sub-postmasters easier.

However, not long after its introduction, those using it found that it was filled with hidden errors - some of which resulted in financial amounts changing and sudden losses being incurred through no fault of the people using the system.

With their stories doubted by The Post Office’s internal helpline, Sub-postmasters began facing the blame for these errors, resulting in accusations of monetary theft and even jail time for some.

A group of postal workers hold a long red sign that reads 'Support Our Sub-Postmasters'.
An ensemble cast gather to tell this unfortunate real-life story. (ITV)

Thankfully, over time, many of Horizon’s errors became public knowledge and those who had long been campaigning for their innocence were finally able to have their stories heard - and more importantly - believed.

It is this story that Mr Bates Vs The Post Office will tell, offering up a dramatised version of some very real events that cast a huge shadow for those involved.

Those looking for a more grounded inspection of this Horizon incident can stick around after the series has concluded on Thursday, 4 January 2024 for the new documentary on the topic which airs at 10.45pm.


Who is starring in Mr Bates Vs The Post Office?

Actor Monica Dolan holds a phone to her face looking shocked.
Black Mirror star Monica Dolan will play a submisteress in the series. (ITV)

Jones stars as the titular Alan Bates, the figure at the centre of the Sub-postmasters’ ongoing campaign to clear their names in the public eye.

Joining him is The Pact’s Julie Hesmondhalgh as Alan’s partner Suzanne, Black Mirror’s Monica Dolan as fellow sub-postmastress Jo, and Coronation Street’s Will Mellor as sub-postmaster Lee.

Actor Lee Mellor wearing a grey suit with a blue tie. He has a backpack on one shoulder.
Lee Mellor will also star in the series. (ITV)

The Crown’s Alex Jennings will appear as MP James Arbuthnot, with Krupa Pattani as sub-postmistress Sam, Amit Shah as her partner Jason and The Capture's Lia Williams as Post Office CEO Paula Vennells.

Ian Hart, Shaun Dooley, Lesley Nicol, Adam James, Katherine Kelly and Clare Clabraith will also star.


Mr Bates Vs The Post Office continues on 2 January at 9pm on ITV and ITVX.