Mr Bates vs The Post Office sparks mass ITV 'switch off' as viewers 'sickened' by 'heartbreaking' scandal

Mr Bates vs The Post Office sparks mass ITV 'switch off' as viewers 'sickened' by 'heartbreaking' scandal

WATCH NOW: Mr Bates Vs The Post Office trailer from ITV

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 02/01/2024

- 13:49

Updated: 04/01/2024

- 15:03

ITV's depiction of the saga debuted on New Year's Day

ITV viewers were left struggling to watch the channel's latest drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office just minutes into its premiere on Monday evening.

Based on a true story, the new series delves into the horrendous impact and havoc the Post Office's new IT system in the late '90s caused on sub-postmasters and postmistresses everywhere.

Back in 1999, the Post Office rolled out a new computer system called Horizon across its branches and, soon after, financial losses began to appear on records.

The sub-postmasters were held responsible for the losses and tasked with resolving the discrepancies and each one was told they were the only ones experiencing issues.

Alan Bates (played by Toby Jones) refused to back down, however, and along with the likes of Jo Hamilton (Monica Dolan), Noel Thomas (Ifan Huw Dafydd), and Lee Castleton (Will Mellor), they sought justice.

The premiere set the stage for the chaos and life-changing horrors that would ensue for the sub-postmasters - and it proved difficult for those watching at home to stomach.

Mr Bates Vs The Post Office

Mr Bates Vs The Post Office premiered on New Year's Day


Taking to X, formerly Twitter, during the first episode, one person raged: "This is honestly so heartbreaking to watch, so well acted, and such an important story to tell.

"The gaslighting of 'you’re the only one' is so incredibly cruel. The strength of these people to somehow keep going and fight #PostOfficeScandal #postoffice #MrBatesVsThePostOffice."

Elsewhere, a second fumed: "This is horrific… it’s so hard to watch. Those poor people! How can it be so widespread and no one did nothing. Disgrace!! #MrBatesVsThePostOffice."

Meanwhile, a third threatened to turn off: "Less than 20 mins in and not sure I can watch this. Sick to my stomach #PostOfficeScandal."

Toby Jones

Toby Jones plays the titular role in Mr Bates Vs The Post Office


Have you been affected by the Horizon IT scandal? If you'd like to share your story, get in touch with

A fourth agreed: "I'm not sure I can watch this anymore. It's so upsetting. #MrBatesvsThePostOffice."

While a fifth angered viewer added: "Can’t believe how furious I am! Now having to watch the whole thing because I can’t believe what I’m seeing! #MrBatesvsThePostOffice."

And another echoed: "Currently watching #Mrbatesvsthepostoffice and although its a dramatisation it is a horrific thing to watch, absolutely sickening what happened to these poor people."

Despite the difficult nature of the story, ITV still celebrated a triumphant win in the ratings battle against the BBC's The Tourist on New Year's Day, with over a million more viewers tuning into the Jones-led drama.

Over the course of four episodes, Mr Bates Vs The Post Office will also detail how 736 people were prosecuted as a result of the scandal while hundreds more lost livelihoods, homes and life savings.

Several went to prison, some while pregnant or with young children, and many were shunned by their communities. A number have tragically died before they could find justice.

Will Mellor

Will Mellor stars in Mr Bates Vs The Post Office


In 2019, the High Court ruled the Horizon software contained “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” it had caused shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts which resulted in dozens of convictions being overturned and £138million being paid out in compensation.

Speaking on why it was important to bring the story to life in the new drama, leading star Jones said: "On a cultural front, you make drama like this because it's about people's relationship with their community.

"Often people feel isolated or are atomized: here is a story about people coming together. The oldest Greek dramas are about a chorus uniting behind a cause, and a hero emerging from among them and taking on forces that appear to be far stronger and more anonymous and immutable.

“And yet the hero wins. So in a way, this is an ancient story, and it's a very uplifting story. It shows that people can talk to each other, and unite and take action. I'm very proud and relieved that they came to me because I'm honoured to have anything to do with Alan Bates.

"Anyone who talks about it is honoured to have had dealings with him. He's an extraordinary man.”

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