Lawyer who helped dozens have convictions quashed hopes ‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’ drama leads to more former subpostmasters seeking justice


Dr Neil Hudgell

Executive Chairman

6 min read time
29 Dec 2023

Neil Hudgell who has helped 73 former subpostmasters to have convictions related to the Post Office Horizon Scandal quashed says he hopes an ITV drama seen by millions will bring more forward to clear their names.

‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’ tells the story of how the Post Office, over two decades, held hundreds of its own subpostmasters and postmistresses liable for financial discrepancies thrown up by its hugely expensive but unreliable computerized accounting system, Horizon.

Despite warnings the system was flawed, the Post Office relentlessly pursued the subpostmasters and postmistresses – leading to more than 700 prosecutions, criminal convictions, and for some, prison sentences.

People were told to plead guilty to crimes or face prison. They lost their jobs, their homes, and their lifesavings as they were forced to pay the Post Office money it claimed had gone missing. Families were torn apart, reputations were destroyed.

The ITV drama ‘Mr Bates vs The Post Office’. (Photo ITV)

Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, became involved in late 2019, shortly after the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA), led by former subpostmaster Alan Bates, won a High Court case which established the ‘bugs, errors and defects in the Horizon system caused discrepancies in postmasters’ branch accounts’.

Mr Hudgell has since been at the forefront of legal proceedings which have paved the way for long-held convictions of subpostmasters to be overturned, whilst also pursuing compensation settlements on their behalf, and representing clients at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry.

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Legal proceedings have established routes to appeal and compensation

Significant progress has been made, and in September 2023, the Post Office announced it would pay a minimum of £600,000 to all former subpostmasters who have their convictions quashed.

Yet, despite this significant breakthrough, Mr Hudgell remains frustrated that there are still more than 600 people yet to come forward and seek justice.

“One of the frustrations over the past few years has been the huge numbers we know were prosecuted but have not come forward for help. I believe there are a raft of reasons for that,” he said.

Believe it or not, until now I’ve felt that there has still been an element of unawareness, which hopefully this drama may now have overcome to some degree.

People may have left the jurisdiction, others may be elderly and not in touch with many people socially, and some may have died and kept what happened secret from their families because of the shame they felt at the time.

Equally some may just remain fearful of entering any legal process that involves the Post Office and be skeptical of their motivation having being hideously scarred by what it did to them.

I’ve also been told that some former subpostmasters who were contacted directly by the Post Office to say they don’t want to even think about what happened and to leave them alone.

Just recently our legal team was contacted by a former subpostmistress who had been convicted and contacted twice by the Post Office to say she may be able to clear her name.

She has only just come forward now as she feared the process, and thought it would cost her money, which is not the case as the costs are covered either by Legal Aid or the Post Office themselves.

We’ve an established process in place which means we are in great position now to help, much better than three years ago when we were beginning the process of challenging convictions.

Part of that process is to introduce them to other postmaster clients of ours who have already been through that journey, such as Jo Hamilton and Noel Thomas.

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

‘A special bunch of people who deserve justice’

Asked why he remains so passionate about the case, Mr Hudgell says it is because he has found subpostmasters to be ‘a special group of people’.

“As a business our mission is righting wrongs, and this is the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history, so we are hugely proud to be representing what is a special group of people,” he said.

There can be no greater use of our skills and time than helping former subpostmasters affected by this scandal. Hopefully this will now open the door to helping many more. Those people who have not come forward are to this day unjustifiably living with tarnished characters and living a life they should not be living.

“Our message to them would be that we have experience of supporting highly traumatised people. We can put them in contact with other former subpostmasters who have been through the process who can help them on the journey and calm their anxieties.

“Our role is to shoulder the hard work to get them exonerated and compensated to help ensure there future years are that bit more comfortable. For those we have supported so far, the motivator has not been financial, it has been about justice, about clearing their name and about peace of mind.

They are not criminals, and they should not have that label against their names.

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Neil Hudgell with Jo Hamilton.

‘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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Lawyer who helped dozens have convictions quashed hopes ‘Mr Bates v The Post Office’ drama leads to more former subpostmasters seeking justice

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