Panorama Post Office Scandal

Panorama – The Post Office Scandal aired last night and viewers are rightfully outraged about the tragic case

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BBC One’s Panorama – The Post Office Scandal aired last night, and as well as being an enlightening watch, viewers were left angry at the injustices of this real-life case. 

BBC One’s Panorama delves into some of the nation’s most talked-about topics and explores everything from Britain’s rape convictions to the cost of living crisis.

The one-off special episodes are insightful but, more than anything, allow viewers to get a sense of experiences first-hand from the people who have lived through them. Last night’s emotional Panorama – The Post Office Scandal episode was no different.

Hearing from the postmasters at the centre of the case and their families, the episode not only explored the miscarriage of justice but also the people who were personally impacted by the allegations of fraud.

The case has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in legal history. So what happened? 

Panorama Post Office Scandal
Panorama – The Post Office Scandal details one of the most shocking cases in recent British history.

Between 2000 and 2014, the Post Office prosecuted 736 post office operators based on information from a recently installed computer system called Horizon. That meant that an average of one post office operator was being prosecuted weekly.

The faulty software made it seem as though money was missing from the branch managers’ sites, and subsequently, they were given criminal convictions and were accused of losing or stealing the money.

In reality, it was the new computer system that was to blame and the whole ordeal went on for nearly two decades. In this new Panorama episode, though, we get to hear from the people it affected directly and it makes for some stark and emotional viewing.

As the synopsis reads: “This Panorama special tells the story of those whose lives were utterly devastated, reveals the damning evidence that was kept from them and investigates how and why the Post Office, a multinational tech company and the government covered up the truth for so long.” 

Panorama Post Office Scandal
The Shaheens tell their story in BBC One's Panorama – The Post Office Scandal.

While 39 individuals had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal in April 2021, paving the way for more than 30 others to have their convictions overturned since then, the case is still ongoing, according to the documentary.

In the Panorama episode, we meet Ms Hamilton, who had a criminal conviction looming over her for 12 years. She said: “Justice would be for everyone to be put back to where they would have been had none of this happened.”

According to the BBC, the Post Office has agreed to make interim payments of up to £100,000 to most of those who have had their convictions quashed. But the solicitor representing many of the victims says that his clients are still a long way from reaching any final settlements.

In the closing moments of the Panorama episode, we learn that a public inquiry into the Post Office scandal is now underway and “thus far, nobody has been held to account or accepted responsibility” for the scandal. 

Panorama Post Office Scandal
Noel Thomas is one of the former postmasters included in BBC's Panorama episode on the Post Office scandal.

“I’d like to see people come back to justice. People in their position being paid a lot of money and hiding the truth – make them feel like I felt when I lost everything overnight,” Noel Thomas – who was accused of stealing £46,000 – says in the documentary.

It’s a sentiment that has stuck with viewers after watching the enlightening episode.

Reactions to the episode were rightfully intense and ranged from gut-wrenching: 

To complete sadness and sympathy for the innocent former post office operators involved:

A lot of viewers were left angry after watching the one-hour documentary:

And even after all this time, still remains one of the most shocking cases in recent British history:

Although the case is a well-known one, it seems that seeing it explored on screen provided another crucial level of insight for many:

Panorama – The Post Office Scandal is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.     

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Images: BBC

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