The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (2024)

Mr Bates vs The Post Office dramatizes perhaps the biggest miscarriage of justice in British history, in which thousands of UK Post Office branch operators were wrongly accused of theft and fraud, leading to loss of their livelihoods, their health, their good names, and for some, their freedom, at the hand of a powerful British government institution. Get to know a few of the real people you’ll see in the series, from the Subpostmasters to the corporate executives, and learn about the actors bringing their riveting stories to life.

  • 1.

    Alan Bates

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (1)

    For two decades, former Subpostmaster Alan Bates has tirelessly sought justice for the wrongly accused Subpostmasters whom he helped to unite. He took over a wool and clothing shop with a post office in Craig-y-Don, north Wales, in 1998, and in 2000, shortly after the faulty Horizon system was deployed at his post office, unexplained losses appeared in his accounts. Told he was financially liable the losses, he was denied the opportunity to see the Post Office’s evidence, and by 2003, the Post Office had terminated his appointment as Subpostmaster after he refused to pay any discrepancies. He and his partner Suzanne Sercombe lost their shop and all their savings.

    In Mr Bates vs The Post Office, he is played by Toby Jones, who said of Alan Bates, “I’m very proud and relieved that [the production] came to me because I’m honored to have anything to do with Alan Bates. Anyone who talks about it is honored to have had dealings with him. He’s an extraordinary man.”

    Toby Jones has had numerous MASTERPIECE roles over the years in dramas and mysteries including The Old Curiosity Shop,The Way We Live Now,Poirot, Cadfael, and in the Sherlockepisode “The Lying Detective,” as Sherlock Holmes’ evil arch enemy, Culverton Smith. He played Truman Capote in the 2006 feature filmInfamous and co-starred as a small-town metal-detecting hobbyist in the comedyseries Detectorists. Jones’ body of work also includes roles in the Harry Potter,Hunger Games,Jurassic World, andIndiana Jonesfranchises, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

  • 2.

    Jo Hamilton

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (2)

    In 2003, Jo Hamilton was appointed Subpostmistress in the Hampshire village shop she’d been running since 2001, while working for its post office. Soon the Horizon system began creating shortfalls in her account and, believing that it must have been her own fault, she paid the differences from her own pocket, even remortgaging her house twice to pay for the alleged debts. Still, in 2006, she was fired from her job and charged with the theft for a Horizon-created £36,000 shortfall. When she was taken to court, 74 people from her local community showed up to support her, and villagers helped her to pay back the staggering amount, which she agreed to in a plea bargain that additionally required that she accept Post Office’s charge of false accounting.

    Monica Dolan, the actor playing Jo Hamilton, found her to be “very warm…very gregarious and a great animal lover, the sort of person you feel really safe with. Talking to her now, there’s something about her that doesn’t seem to have changed: she’s still got a really, really positive outlook. Somehow, she still sees the best in people.”

    A veteran of the stage as well as screens large and small, Monica Dolan has appeared in numerous TV shows including Death in Paradise, Black Mirror, A Very English Scandal, Wolf Hall on MASTERPIECE, and Call the Midwife, where she notably played twins Mave and Meg Carter.

  • 3.

    Lee Castleton

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (3)

    Lee Castleton and his wife bought their East Yorkshire Post Office branch in 2003, and within a year, he spotted a £26,000 shortfall in the accounting. He called Horizon’s IT helpline 91 times, knowing that the error could not have been his own, yet received no help. The Post Office audited and suspended him, ordering him to repay the money—which he refused to do—then took him to court. Unable to afford a lawyer, he represented himself, and when he lost the case, the Post Office pursued him for legal costs of £321,000, bankrupting him. All the while, his children were bullied in school and his wife’s health suffered.

    Will Mellor, the actor playing Castleton, recalled his emotional meeting with the former Subpostmaster who had been hesitant to revisit his harrowing experience, saying “The last thing I wanted to do was make things harder for him, so I learned about him as much as I could [before filming].” But when the two finally met at the screening for Mr Bates vs The Post Office, Mellor told Radio Times, “…we hugged it out and we both got really emotional…[W]e both had a moment and it was amazing, it really was. And I just said, ‘I hope I’ve done you proud, mate.’”

    Will Mellor is a fixture on British television, well known there for his roles the medical drama Casualty, and in long-running soaps Hollyoaks and, more recently, Coronation Street. Americans might recognize him for his work in Line of Duty, Death in Paradise, and Broadchurch.

  • 4.

    Jess Kaur

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (4)

    Former Subpostmistress Jess Kaur’s story was dramatized in Mr Bates vs The Post Office through the character Saman Kaur. Kaur was accused of stealing £11,000 from the West Midlands post office branch she operated. When Post Office auditors turned up at her business with the police, she was brought to the police station and, she told the BBC, was told during a break in her interview, “You’re the only one it’s happened to, admit it, plead guilty and we’ll get you back in your office the next day.” Aware of her innocence but scared, she pleaded guilty. But the stress was so overwhelming that it prompted a breakdown and an attempt to take her own life. Kaur was hospitalized for six months, during which time she received 14 electroshock therapy treatments and, Kauer told Good Morning Britain, “While I was in hospital, the Post Office didn’t believe I was there, so they sent their own doctors, and then they examined me as well, so not only was I getting the electroshock treatments, I was getting grief off them, as well.”

    Actor Krupa Pattani is best known in the UK for her roles in the long-running soap Hollyoaks and the comedy series Citizen Khan.

  • 5.

    Michael Rudkin

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (5)

    Husband and wife team Michael and Susan Rudkin were in the post office business for many years, running a branch in South Yorkshire between 1995 and 2004, and then Susan running a branch in Leicestershire while Michael became executive member of the National Federation of Subpostmasters. When Susan was wrongly convicted of stealing £44,000, Michael lost his union position and his job, and Susan, given a suspended sentence, was forced to do 300 hours of community service—wearing an electronic tag.

    Prolific actor Shaun Dooley, who portrays Michael Rudkin in Mr Bates vs The Post Office, has appeared on MASTERPIECEs in Grantchester, Great Expectations, and Foyle’s War. More recent television appearances include Broadchurch, The Witcher, Gentleman Jack, It’s a Sin, and the feature film Saltburn.

  • 6.

    Pam Stubbs

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (6)

    Pam Stubbs’ husband Martin ran the Barkham post office in Berkshire for 23 years, with Pam’s assistance, until his death in 1999. She took over as Subpostmistress after his death, and that same year, Horizon was introduced into post offices throughout the UK. It was when Pam moved her post office into a Portokabin (a temporary office structure) while the original post office was being rebuilt that she began experiencing shortfalls of thousands of pounds reported by Horizon. While the Post Office sent auditors to investigate on two separate occasions and neither could account for the shortfalls (with one shortfall mysteriously appearing while the auditor was working by Pam’s side), they suspended her in 2010, accused of stealing £25,000, and she resigned under threat of prosecution, having paid thousands of pounds and sold her business under market value.

    Pam Stubbs is played by Lesley Nichol, whom MASTERPIECE viewers will recognize as Downton Abbey’s loveable but hot-tempered head cook, Mrs. Patmore. She was in MASTERPIECE series Beecham House, has appeared in detective series Doc Martin and Father Brown, and has done voice work in a number of animated series.

  • 7.

    James Arbuthnot

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (7)

    James Arbutnot is a Conservative Lord and the former MP for North East Hampshire who played a pivotal role in helping the Subpostmasters. He was first involved in the case when Jo Hamilton, one of his constituents, reached out to him. He advocated for exposure of the Post Office’s wrongdoings and led a cross-party parliamentary group of MPs who were working to help their constituents.

    In Mr Bates vs The Post Office, Arbuthnot is played by Alex Jennings, who has appeared on MASTERPIECE in Victoria, Unforgotten, Churchill’s Secret, Inspector Lewis, and Cranford. He will return to MASTERPIECE in Wolf Hall: The Mirror and The Light. Jennings played Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor, in The Crown, and played a liberal MP in A Very English Scandal.

  • 8.

    Kay Linnell

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (8)

    Kay Linnell is a forensic accountant who became involved in the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance in through Jo Hamilton. Linnell wrote, “My business partner used to drop into Jo’s shop to buy her lunch for court. One day, she found Jo in tears because of ever-increasing unexplained shortfalls in her business accounts. As a forensic accountant, I wanted to try to find out how the loss had occurred. So, I volunteered to help using my accounting and expert skills and requested documents — only to discover that none were given to Jo, who was left without any documents for her defense.”

    Actor Isobel Middleton has appeared on long-running British soaps Coronation Street, EastEnders, and Emmerdale, and long-running medical dramas Holby City and Casualty. She has been in the cast of the iconic British radio serial/podcast The Archers since 2016.

  • 9.

    Paula Vennells

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (9)

    Paula Vennells was chief executive of Post Office Limited from 2012 until April, 2019, a time period which saw the wrongful prosecution of over 100 Subpostmasters; a full-throated defense of the Horizon system; and, in December 2018, Vennells being named a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to the Post Office and charity. She is an ordained Anglican priest in the Church of England; she stepped back from her role as associate minister in 2021 during the controversy around the Post Office scandal.

    Lia Williams plays Paula Vennells in Mr Bates vs The Post Office. She played Wallis Simpson to Alex Jennings’ Duke of Windsor in The Crown, and has also appeared in His Dark Materials, Riviera, Death in Paradise, and Doc Martin.

  • 10.

    Angela van den Bogerd

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (10)

    Angela van den Bogerd was a 33-year veteran of the Post Office organization, working in various positions including head of partnerships. In 2010, she began handling complaints about Horizon, and in 2013, was part of a Post Office working group formed to deal with the scandal.

    Katherine Kelly, like many of her Mr Bates vs The Post Office castmates, is well known in the UK from her time on an iconic British soap, in this case Coronation Street. MASTERPIECE audiences may remember her as the formidable Lady Mae in Mr. Selfridge. More recently, she appeared in Gentleman Jack and Happy Valley.

  • 11.

    James Hartley

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (11)

    James Hartley is a lawyer who led the case against the Post Office. He is Partner and National Head of Dispute Resolution at the law firm Freeths, and has worked for over six years on the Post Office case, seeking justice for the Subpostmasters and exposing unlawful actions on the part of the Post Office.

    Hartely is played by John Hollingworth, whom MASTERPIECE viewers no doubt recognize as Ross Poldark’s fellow miner and right-hand man in Poldark. More recently, he’s appeared in the feature film Napoleon and TV series Professor T, The Full Monty, The Midwich Cuckoos, and Gentleman Jack.

  • 12.

    The Honorable Lord Justice Fraser (also called Mr. Justice Fraser)

    The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (12)

    Sir Peter Donald Fraser, styled The Honorable Lord Justice Fraser, was the managing judge in the Subpostmasters’ suit against the Post Office. In December 2023, he was appointed Chair of the Law Commission of England and Wales. He is an Ironman triathlete in his spare time, earning him the nickname The Iron Judge!

    Playing Mr Justice Fraser is Pip Torrens, whom MASTERPIECE viewers will recognize as Poldark’s notorious Cary Warleggan. He’s been in numerous MASTERPIECEs including Roadkill, Grantchester, Salting the Battlefield, Breathless, and The Lady Vanishes, and played indelible characters in Peter Munion in Succession and Tommy Lascelles in The Crown.

  • The Real People and Cast of Mr Bates vs The Post Office | PBS (2024)
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