Alan Bates brands Post Office bosses 'thugs in suits' adding government must be 'held responsible' for Horizon scandal

9 April 2024, 16:38 | Updated: 9 April 2024, 16:56

Mr Bates has also accused the Post Office of "definitely trying to outspend us" when asked what "aggressive litigation tactics" it used during High Court proceedings.
Mr Bates has also accused the Post Office of "definitely trying to outspend us" when asked what "aggressive litigation tactics" it used during High Court proceedings. Picture: Alamy
Jasmine Moody

By Jasmine Moody

Alan Bates has said the government must be "held responsible" for its role in the Horizon scandal, as he accuses the Post Office of attempting to "silence him".

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Mr Bates, one of the key campaigners that led to the Horizon scandal being pushed into the public eye, provided evidence as part of the Horizon IT inquiry today.

He told the inquiry that the government was "pumping huge amounts of money into [the] Post Office year after year so they need to be held responsible.

"They need to be addressed really about the way that they had been going on.

"It was very hard to engage them in it – not nowadays, they’re a bit more interested these days – but at that time, trying to get the government to try and take it on board seriously, it was very hard," he added.

Alan Bates.
Alan Bates. Picture: Alamy

Mr Bates has also accused the Post Office of "definitely trying to outspend us" when asked what "aggressive litigation tactics" it used during High Court proceedings.

He added: "We had to raise commercial funding from it, they had a bottomless pocket as such being a government organisation.

"So anything they could do to spin it out, anything they could do to recuse the judge or whatever, they did.

"Anything to cost us money and try and get us to stop the case."

In another scathing criticism, Mr Bates has called the Post Office an "atrocious organisation" that is "beyond saving" and should be sold to Amazon.

When asked for his thoughts on the culture of the Post Office, the former subpostmaster told the inquiry: "It's an atrocious organisation.

"They need disbanding. It needs removing. It needs building up again from the ground floor.

"The whole of the postal service nowadays - it's a dead duck. It's beyond saving.

"It needs to be sold to someone like Amazon. It needs a real big injection of money and I only think that can happen coming in from the outside.

"Otherwise it's going to be a bugbear for the government for the years to come."

Former subpostmaster and lead campaigner Alan Bates, accompanied by his wife Suzanne Sercombe, arrives at Aldwych House, central London, to give evidence to Post Office Horizon IT inquiry.
Former subpostmaster and lead campaigner Alan Bates, accompanied by his wife Suzanne Sercombe, arrives at Aldwych House, central London, to give evidence to Post Office Horizon IT inquiry. Picture: Alamy

Read more: Sell Post Office to Amazon for a pound, Horizon scandal hero Alan Bates tells MPs

Read more: Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells refuses to answer questions on Horizon scandal as she's confronted at church

Mr Bates is giving evidence as part of phases five and six of the probe, which will look at governance, redress and how the Post Office and others responded to the scandal.

The former subpostmaster was forced to leave his branch in 2003, and like hundreds of others, was falsely accused of stealing money from the Post Office.

Documents shown to the inquiry showed how Mr Bates' Post Office contract was terminated in 2003 after he refused to repay Horizon-related sums without being shown sufficient evidence that he was responsible for them, even though he repeatedly raised concerns about Horizon’s integrity.

One internal Post Office document, titled "Horizon Integrity", claimed Mr Bates had been dismissed because he became "unmanageable"

Sir Ed Davey, who was Postal Affairs Minister for two years from 2010 to 2012, has responded to Mr Bates via a spokesperson.

The Liberal Democrat spokesperson has branded the ex-subpostmaster a “hero for all he has done to represent subpostmasters through this horrific miscarriage of justice.

They added that leader Sir Ed Davey was sorry for not seeing the truth earlier.

The spokesperson also said: "The party is calling on the government to ensure postmasters get full and fair compensation urgently, and Post Office executives who lied for decades are held properly to account."

Author Dorothy Byrne hopes those who hid the Horizon scandal are 'trembling'

Sir Wyn Williams, a retired High Court judge who is leading the Post Office inquiry, asked those present not to clap for Mr Bates after he finished giving evidence.

At the end of proceedings on Tuesday, Sir Wyn thanked Mr Bates for his contributions and stopped audience members who were about to break into applause.

He said: "I can see hands preparing and I know what's coming because it's inevitable.

"I fully understand why they want to applaud you Mr Bates but I'm going to ask you not to for this reason - that there will be witnesses who are coming in the next so-forth who may not be so attractive to many of you and I would hate to think that I would have to intervene when they are here to prevent bad behaviour.

"In the interest of people being even-handed, I am asking you to remember that this is not a public meeting but a public inquiry, it's not a court of law but it's a judicial process so please leave it there."

The Post Office was later ordered to pay £58 million in compensation for the false prosecutions - and dubbed the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history.
The Post Office was later ordered to pay £58 million in compensation for the false prosecutions - and dubbed the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history. Picture: Alamy

Mr Bates and five others from JFSA (Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance) took the Post Office to court on behalf of 555 claimants.

In 2019, the High Court ruled that the software contained "bugs, eros and defects" with "material risk" which caused shortfalls in the Post Office branch accounts.

The Post Office was later ordered to pay £58 million in compensation for the false prosecutions - and dubbed the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history.

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