A STARRING role was played by south Warwickshire in a TV drama making national headlines.
The ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office has sparked outrage and ignited calls for justice for those whose lives were destroyed by the long-running Post Office IT scandal.
It saw 736 sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses across the country wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 for false accounting, theft and fraud, on the basis of faulty information supplied by the Horizon IT system being used at the time by the Post Office.
The TV drama has intensified pressure on the government to finally deal with the scandal which has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history.
Many of those affected lost everything. A number have since died, while many of the surviving, some of whom even went to prison, are still waiting for compensation and for their names to be cleared.
The four part series featured familiar south Warwickshire places and faces.
The village of Fenny Compton near Kineton was among the filming locations, having hosted the first meeting of postmasters back in 2009.
In the series, Toby Jones who plays the dogged Alan Bates, who continues to spearhead the campaign for justice, is seen placing a finger on a map to find a central location to meet, and landing on Fenny Compton.
The series also saw Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi make a surprise acting debut.
The former chancellor was seen playing himself as he grilled then-Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells in the third episode of the series, which focused on the 2015 Commons committee inquiry into the faulty Horizon computer system.
In his cameo role, the MP, who sat on the actual committee from 2010 to 2015, is seen repeatedly calling the Post Office’s handling of the matter “a shambles”.
Mr Zahawi – who agreed to appear for free and for any fees to be donated to charity – also spoke in parliament this week calling for all the convictions to be quashed.
Speaking about Mr Zahawi’s appearance in the series, an ITV spokesperson said: “In factual dramas, it is common for real-life figures – journalists, TV personalities and other public figures – to play themselves in small roles as a way of adding further authenticity to the series.
“We have chosen to feature Nadhim Zahawi – who appears in the context of a select committee – for this reason. The television presenter James Naughtie will also feature in the drama for the same reason.”
Since the drama aired it is believed a further 50 people affected have come forward, police have also launched an investigation into possible fraud with the Post Office, and after more than a million people signed a petition calling for Mrs Vennells to be stripped of a CBE she was awarded in 2019, she announced this week she would be returning it immediately.