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‘Post Office drama is our life stories. Hopefully the hundreds who disappeared will come forward and prove their innocence’

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Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

6 min read time

Like millions of others, Noel Thomas will sit with his family to watch the new ITV drama ‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’ on New Year’s Day, which tells the story of the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history.

Mr Thomas, of Gaerwen, Anglesey, knows the plot all too well, as it’s the story of how the Post Office ‘destroyed’ his life – and more than 700 others – as it prosecuted them using financial information gathered from its faulty Horizon accounting system, which had been installed in branches across England and Wales.

One of 73 people Hudgell Solicitors has since helped to clear their names, Mr Thomas was jailed in 2006 over a shortfall of £48,450 in his branch accounts, having been charged with false accounting,

He spent nine months – and his 60th birthday – in prison.

Last year he told the ongoing Post Office Horizon IT Public Inquiry into the scandal how he found life in prison ‘hell’, describing how it impacted on he and his family’s lives, and how he was unable to contact his family for the first eight days of his sentence.

Now he hopes the new drama, in which he is played by Welsh actor Ifan Huw Dafydd, will bring the story to a whole new audience.

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Noel Thomas’ story features in the ITV drama ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’

Watch: ‘Two Decades – The Fight For Justice’

Our documentary film tells the story of the Post Office scandal through the eyes of the victims fighting to overturn their wrongful convictions.

If you’ve suffered as a result of the Post Office scandal and want to speak to us, contact our Horizon team today:

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Post Office relentlessly pursued subpostmasters

Despite warnings that the Horizon accounting system was flawed, the Post Office relentlessly pursued subpostmasters and postmistresses for money which it alleged had gone missing, pressuring them to admit crimes they had not committed.

The new drama tells how in 2009, a group of subpostmasters from across the UK formed the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA).

Led by former subpostmaster Alan Bates, the group’s 10-year campaign led to a High Court case in 2019, at which a judge ruled that ‘bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system caused discrepancies in postmasters’ branch accounts’.

The judge also ruled that the system was ‘not robust’, and there was a “material risk” of it being the cause of the shortfalls.

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Solicitor Neil Hudgell, who represents Noel Thomas, at home with his family.

“I truly hope this drama makes more people aware of exactly what happened and how hundreds of lives were destroyed by the Post Office, overseen by the four Governments who were in power over the many years this was going on,” said Mr Thomas, now 77.

I worked for the Post Office for 42 years, 32 as a postman and 10 as a subpostmaster, and then they did what they did to me. The impact on lives is awful. For many it has done so much more than damage to their reputation and financial position, it has destroyed people and led to lifelong suffering, depression and mental illness.

I haven’t seen the drama myself yet, but I am hopeful that it will show many more people exactly what happened, and how people like myself were pressured into admitting crimes they hadn’t committed.

I think the court hearings and the Inquiry are at times a bit overwhelming, so hopefully the drama will just tell the story of the subpostmasters and their families, and the impact on them.

It’s a shocking story – my life story and that of many others – and I am glad it is being told in this way. It will hopefully make it clear just how appallingly people were treated, and also highlight what a hero Alan Bates was for the way he brought people together and took on the Post Office.

‘Hopefully we can find those who have disappeared’

Mr Thomas, who recently released his own book, ‘The Stamp of Innocence’ detailing his case and the impact on him, also hopes the drama brings out hundreds who have yet to come forward and clear their names.

The 2019 court ruling paved the way for them to be able to successfully appeal their convictions, and have them quashed if it can be shown that Horizon-based evidence was ‘intrinsic’ to their prosecutions.

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Noel Thomas a victim of the Post Office scandal outside the High Court.

Compensation claims can then be sought for malicious prosecution, loss of reputation, liberty, property and financial loss, with the Post Office now having offered a minimum compensation of £600,000 in each case.

Four years on, still less than 100 people have had their convictions quashed by the courts, with hundreds still to come forward to clear their names.

“I can remember going to one of the very first meetings of the JFSA, and meeting Jo Hamilton and others who have been there right from the start. We had coffee and biscuits and we discovered we were not alone. From then on we fought all the way for justice,” he said.

I think many can’t face another legal process to begin clearing their names, but it is something which was hugely important to me. People went their own ways. We are now there to help and advise people, like some of us were there for one another in the early days.

Throughout we have been supported brilliantly by Hudgell Solicitors who have done a fantastic job in taking our cases to the appeal courts and then pursing compensation. I hope other people now turn to them to have their convictions quashed, and secure the compensation they deserve.

Solicitor Neil Hudgell ready to help more subpostmasters clear their names

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, has helped 73 former subpostmasters clear their names by having convictions quashed in the courts, with many now also having agreed compensation settlements with the Post Office.

He continues to represent many still seeking settlements, and hopes the drama and documentary will lead to more coming forward. He says his team is ready and willing to help.

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‘Post Office Horizon Scandal’ Podcast Series

In our exclusive Podcast Series, Neil Hudgell discusses the case, the fight for justice, why Hudgells is proud to represent and help those affected and why Neil believes so many others are yet to come forward. Listen here.

If you’ve suffered as a result of the post office scandal and want to speak to us, contact our Horizon team today by email or request a callback.

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Read more: Post Office Horizon Legal Representation

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