Timeline of Post Office scandal and when it started

Here’s how one of the UK’s worst miscarriages of justice involving hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters came to light

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 08: A general view of a Post Office sign in Westminster on January 08, 2024 in London, England. Between 1999 and 2015, more than 700 Post Office branch managers received criminal convictions, and some were sent to prison, when a faulty computer system called Horizon made it appear that money was missing from their sites. To date, 93 of these convictions have been overturned, leaving many others still fighting their convictions or to receive compensation. A recent television docudrama has thrust the issue back in the spotlight. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The Post Office scandal has dominated the news agenda so far in 2024. (Getty Images)

The Post Office scandal has played out over 25 years and its victims are still fighting for justice. More than 700 branch managers were convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud based on faulty Horizon software developed and maintained by Fujitsu, but fewer than 100 have had their convictions overturned.

Some were wrongfully sent to prison, while many were financially ruined and some have died, in several cases by taking their own lives.

Yahoo News UK takes a detailed look at the timeline of the Post Office scandal.

20 February 2024

The Post Office is being accused of acting illegally, after arguing in court that the Horizon system could not be accessed remotely - despite a 2016 investigation showing that it could be.

The BBC reported that then prime minister David Cameron's government was aware that the Post Office has ditched an investigation into the Horizon software that could have helped to exonerate wrongly accused postmasters.

The 2016 investigation looked through 17 years of Horizon records to find out whether the system could be accessed remotely, with the Post Office informing ministers that a probe was taking place.

Despite it reportedly finding instances in which the software was accessed remotely, the investigation was stopped as the postmasters began legal action, the BBC found.

11 January 2024

Messages handed in to the Post Office Horizon inquiry show that cash bonuses were handed out to investigators for each postmaster that was convicted. Gary Thomas, a long-term Post Office employee, claimed the incentive scheme was “part of the business“, and that everyone on the security team was “on a bonus”, thought to be worth thousands. Thomas says the bonuses influenced his work as an investigator.

Thomas was the lead investigator in the case of Julian Wilson, who was wrongly convicted of stealing £27,000 from his Post Office in Astwood Bank, Worcestershire, in 2008. Wilson died of bowel cancer in 2016 and had his conviction quashed after his death.

In an email exchange during the initial investigation, reported in The Telegraph, Wilson told a colleague that he was “pleased” to get documents relating to Wilson’s case. When asked why, he wrote back: “Because I want to prove that there is FFFFiiinnn no ‘Case for the Justice of Thieving Subpostmasters’ and that we were the best Investigators they ever had and they were all crooks!!”

10 January 2024

Rishi Sunak announces that Post Office branch managers who were wrongly convicted could will have their names cleared – possibly by the end of the year. Blanket legislation to exonerate sub-postmasters convicted in England and Wales will be introduced within weeks, the prime minister said. He said they were victims of “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in our nation’s history”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions on January 10, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak announced announced plans to exonerate all postmasters who were wrongfuly convicted. (Getty)

9 January 2024

Paula Vennells, CEO of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, announces that she will hand back her CBE.

She says: “I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

“I am, however, aware of the calls from sub-postmasters and others to return my CBE.

“I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect."

8 January 2024

A petition calling for Vennells to have her CBE rescinded reaches more than one million signatures. Prime minister Rishi Sunak says he would “strongly support” the Honours Forfeiture Committee if it chose to look into revoking her honour.

Watch: Sunak would support honours committee investigation into ex-Post Office boss CBE

5 January 2024

The Metropolitan Police says it is investigating potential fraud offences in relation to "monies recovered from sub-postmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions".

1 January 2024

The first part of Mr Bates vs the Post Office, a four-part drama depicting the events of the scandal, is broadcast on ITV, with the other three episodes following on consecutive evenings. It is reported that 50 more victims come forward after its broadcast.



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The cast of Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which has generated huge public interest in the scandal. (ITV)

21 December 2023

Post Office accounts show it has cut the size of its compensation pot for victims by almost half, down from £487m to £244m in the space of a year.

September 2023

The government announces that sub-postmasters who have had their convictions overturned would be offered £600,000 in full and final settlement.

July 2021

The government announces that wrongly convicted sub-postmasters will receive interim compensation of up to £100,000.

May 2021

After convictions are overturned the previous month, the government announces that the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry will be extended into a statutory inquiry, meaning witnesses can now be compelled to give evidence.

April 2021

Thirty-nine postmasters have their convictions quashed at the Court of Appeal. Judges said the convictions were "an affront to the public conscience".

File photo dated 23/04/21 of former post office workers celebrating outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, after their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal. Neil Hudgell, who represented 29 of the cleared subpostmasters, has told BBC Breakfast on Saturday they will seek compensation over the Horizon scandal. Issue date: Saturday April 24, 2021.
Post office workers celebrating outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, in April 2021 after their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal. (PA)

January 2021

The Post Office Horizon IT non-statutory inquiry begins, led by Sir Wyn Williams, but the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) calls it a whitewash and refuses to take part.

December 2020

Six sub-postmasters convicted on the basis of Horizon evidence have their convictions quashed at Southwark Crown Court. They are the first to have their convictions overturned.

August 2020

The details of a settlement from December 2019 are made public, and it is revealed that sub-postmasters were awarded £58m by the Post Office. However, £46m went on legal costs, leaving only about £20,000 for each claimant.

July 2020

The body of postmaster Peter Huxham, 63, who worked at a branch in Devon that falsely recorded a £16,000 shortfall, is found at his apartment. It is believed he may have taken his own life. He was found guilty of fraud by misrepresentation in March 2010 and jailed for eight months, the ordeal causing his 22-year marriage to end.

January 2020

The Metropolitan Police launches a criminal investigation into potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice during the Post Office prosecutions. Two former Fujitsu witnesses are interviewed.

23 December 2019

Vennells apologises for the first time about the scandal, just two days after saying she would not say sorry to sub-postmasters. She says: "I am truly sorry we were unable to find both a solution and a resolution outside of litigation and for the distress this caused."

11 December 2019

Sub-postmasters announce they have reached an out-of-court settlement with the Post Office, although the company did not accept liability, making it a costs settlement not compensation.

Former Post Office Chief Executive Paula Vennells pictured during her tenure with the company from 2012 to 2019. (PA Images)
Paula Vennells was in charge of the Post Office during the scandal. (PA Images)

February 2019

It is announced that Vennells will step down from her role as chief executive at the Post Office. She leaves the company with more than £400,000 in pay and bonuses.

December 2018

Vennells is given a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for "services to the Post Office and to charity".

March 2017

A total of 555 claimants, headed by Alan Bates, brings a group litigation against the Post Office at the High Court. It is resolved when the Post Office agrees to pay costs.

April 2015

A confidential report by Second Sight describes the Horizon system as, in some cases, "not fit for purpose". It says there were about 12,000 communications failures each year and software defects at 76 branches. It said the original Post Office investigation had not looked for the cause of errors, instead accusing sub-postmasters of theft.

March 2015

It is reported that the Post Office had ordered Second Sight to cease its investigation one day before its report was due to be published, and to destroy all paperwork it had not handed over.

The Post Office says "there are no wide-scale problems with our computer system".

February 2015

Computerworld UK magazine reports that the Post Office refused to hand over key files to Second Sight for its investigation.

December 2013

Sub-postmaster Martin Griffiths, 59, who ran a branch in Great Sutton, Cheshire, dies by suicide. He was wrongly accused of stealing £61,000 from his post office.

July 2013

An interim report by Second Sight is issued and Post Office Ltd admit software defects with Horizon have occurred but insist the system is effective.

June 2012

Second Sight, an independent investigative firm, is appointed and paid by the Post Office to conduct a separate inquiry, following pressure from MPs.

April 2012

Paula Vennells becomes the chief executive of the Post Office after serving in other senior positions within the company.

October 2010

Pregnant sub-postmistress Seema Misra is sentenced at Guildford Crown Court to 15 months in prison after Horizon falsely recorded a shortfall of £74,000 at her post office in West Byfleet, Surrey. She said later: "It's hard to say but I think that if I had not been pregnant, I would have killed myself." She was cleared in 2021.

(left to right) Former subpostmaster Seema Misra outside the Royal Courts of Justice, London, ahead of her appeal against a conviction of theft, fraud and false accounting. Dozens of former subpostmasters who were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting are attempting to clear their names, arguing their convictions are unsafe because of failings in the Post Office's Fujitsu-developed Horizon IT system. Picture date: Monday March 22, 2021.
Former sub-postmistress Seema Misra was sent to prison when she was pregnant. (PA)

May 2010

Postal affairs minister Sir Ed Davey, now the Liberal Democrats leader, refuses to meet Alan Bates, saying he did not believe it "would serve any purpose". The pair later meet in October that year.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey speaks with members of the media during a rally in Guildford, as he unveils a new campaign poster vowing to
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey was postal affairs minister at the time the scandal was unfolding. (PA)

September 2009

Alan Bates and other victims of the scandal set up the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA). The group's first meeting takes place in the Warwickshire village of Fenny Compton.

May 2009

An article by Computer Weekly magazine tells the story of seven postmasters, including Bates and Castleton, who have experienced issues with Horizon. The article shows that those affected are not alone.

January 2009

Sub-postmistress Fiona McGowan, 47, dies from an accidental overside of alcohol and antidepressants, after being charged with fraud when Horizon wrongly found that £30,000 was missing from her branch in Edinburgh. The charges against her had already been dropped but she was never informed.

January 2006

Sub-postmaster Lee Castleton fights a civil case against the Post Office after it falsely accused him of stealing £35,000 from his branch in Bridlington, East Yorkshire.

Castleton represents himself as he is unable to afford a lawyer, and loses the case. Ordered to pay £321,000 in legal costs, he is forced to declare bankruptcy.

Lee Castleton was forced into bankruptcy by the Post Office. (PA)
Lee Castleton was forced into bankruptcy by the Post Office. (PA)

January 2004

Alan Bates writes a letter to Computer Weekly magazine about the problems with his Horizon system. He writes: "We have lost our investment and livelihood by daring to raise questions over a computer system we had thrust upon us."


The Post Office terminates Alan Bates's contract as sub-postmaster after he refused to accept liability for alleged losses at his branch - he and his wife lost the £65,000 they had invested in the business.

May 2002

Shopkeeper Baljit Sethi contacts the Brentwood Gazette newspaper to raise concerns about Horizon errors at his post office in Brentwood, Essex, which showed a £17,000 shortfall. The Post Office refutes that the system is faulty.


There are more than 100 prosecutions based on faulty Horizon data in three years. Six branch managers are convicted in 2000, while 41 sub-postmasters are prosecuted in 2001 and another 64 in 2002.


Some sub-postmasters report problems with the system within weeks of it being installed, including Alan Bates, who runs a post office in Craig-y-Don, Wales. But the Post Office denies anyone else is having issues and insists postmasters make up any shortfall.

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 has spearheaded the campaign for justice for victims of the Post Office scandal. (PA Images via Getty Images)


The Post Office begins the rollout of its new computer accounting system, Horizon. The system was developed by British company International Computers Ltd, which was rebranded in 2002 under the name of its Japanese owner, Fujitsu.

For confidential emotional support contact The Samaritans at any time by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org.