Lesley Nicol from ‘Downton’ joins ITV drama ‘Mr Bates vs. The Post Office’

Some of our favourite actors have signed up for a new ITV drama from writer Gwyneth Hughes.

Hughes is currently receiving great reviews for her new adaptation of Tom Jones, and previously adapted Vanity Fair for ITV in 2018.

Now her next series, Mr Bates vs. The Post Office, has just started filming in the UK.

It comes from the producer of World On Fire and the four episodes are being directed by James Strong (Broadchurch, Vigil).

“Despite this being a scandal that is now widely regarded as the biggest miscarriage of justice in our country’s legal history, it’s still a story that many people don’t know about,” said executive producer Natasha Bondy. “We hope this series changes that.”

Leading the cast as the titular Mr Bates is Toby Jones, best known for his roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Detectorists and Olivia Colman’s recent Empire of Light movie.

“This is one of the most egregious scandals the country has ever seen and a major corporation has managed to keep it covered up for years,” commented the real Alan Bates. “Thankfully this has now been exposed and the victims are finally on their way to finding the justice they deserve.”

Actor Toby Jones says he’s “proud to be a part of this shocking, unsettling but ultimately inspirational drama.”

“Hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters and postmistresses were wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting due to a defective IT system,” the official synopsis explains.

“Many of the wronged workers were prosecuted, some of whom were imprisoned for crimes they never committed, and their lives were irreparably ruined by the scandal.

“Following the landmark Court of Appeal decision to overturn their criminal convictions, dozens of former sub postmasters and postmistresses have been exonerated on all counts as they battled to finally clear their names.

“They fought for over ten years finally proving their innocence and sealing a resounding victory, but all involved believe the fight is not over yet, not by a long way.”

Toby Jones will be joined by Shaun Dooley (Gentleman Jack), Monica Dolan (The Thief, His Wife and The Canoe), Julie Hesmondhalgh (The Pact), Alex Jennings (Victoria), Ian Hart (The Responder), Lia Williams (The Crown), Will Mellor (Coronation Street), Clare Calbraith (Grace), Amit Shah (Happy Valley), Adam James (Vigil), and Katherine Kelly (Gentleman Jack).

Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol, who played Mrs Patmore in all six seasons of ITV’s hit period drama and both movies, is also in the cast.

Further information from ITV explains the story in more detail:

“Between 2000 and 2013, the Post Office held thousands of its own sub postmasters and postmistresses liable for financial discrepancies thrown up by Horizon, its hugely expensive but unreliable computerised accounting system.

“Despite warnings that the system was flawed, the Post Office relentlessly pursued the sub postmasters and postmistresses, telling many of them they were the only ones having problems with Horizon.

“Of those affected by the faulty IT system, 736 were prosecuted, hundreds more lost livelihoods, homes and life savings because they paid back money the Post Office claimed was missing.

“Several went to prison, some whilst pregnant or with young children and many were shunned by their communities. Some have since died before they could find any justice.

“The drama will narrate how in 2009, a group of sub postmasters from across the UK, decided enough was enough and formed the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance.”

Mr Bates vs. The Post Office will air on ITV1 and stream on ITVX later this year.

The complete Downton Abbey box set is available on DVD on Amazon.