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"They've been waiting far too long": Alan Bates digs into the fight against the Post Office

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sat, 13 Apr 2024, 11:07am
Former subpostmaster Alan Bates leaves Aldwych House after giving evidence to the Post Office Public Inquiry in London, United Kingdom on April 09, 2024. Photo / Getty
Former subpostmaster Alan Bates leaves Aldwych House after giving evidence to the Post Office Public Inquiry in London, United Kingdom on April 09, 2024. Photo / Getty

"They've been waiting far too long": Alan Bates digs into the fight against the Post Office

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sat, 13 Apr 2024, 11:07am

In 1999 the British Post Office introduced a faulty piece of accounting software, the consequences of which would see over 900 subpostmasters wrongly prosecuted for theft, fraud, and false accounting. 

Some lost their businesses, jobs, and homes, and many were left financially ruined. Others were convicted and sent to prison, some dying while they waited for justice. 

The case has been highlighted in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office; the prosecution of Post Office subpostmasters being described as ‘Great Britain's worst miscarriage of justice’. 

Alan Bates, a former subpostmaster, has been leading the charge and this week gave a strong witness statement at the public inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal. 

He told Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame that the outpouring of support from across the nation has been absolutely wonderful, and they may need to engage it going forward. 

“Some of the, if you might call them, the baddies in all of this might be trying to get away scot-free,” Bates said. 

“We have real concerns that they need to be held accountable for their actions in all of this, and often that fails to happen in so many of these big scandals with big firms.” 

Bates told Tame that he’s never really struggled with accounting, so when the Horizon system was introduced to his own Post Office, he could see it was lacking from the outset. 

“Once problems started occurring, it was pretty obvious what was the root cause of it all.” 

He’s worked with computer systems before so he could not only see the issues with the programme itself, but with the stances the Post Office was taking on it.  

Bates said they could never give him an assurance over the accuracy of the system, and they kept swearing no one else could access it, despite it being a network system that anyone could access if they had the right codes. 

“They just terminated me, given me three months' notice and walked off with the investment.” 

Bates professes to be something of a stubborn man, telling Tame that he knew his stance on the system was right and so he dug his heels in on it. 

“We started meeting others over the years, and then we found out we weren’t the only ones, and they weren’t the only ones, and we sort of grew from there.” 

In Bates’ opinion, a lot of this whole event has been about controlling the narrative, which the Post Office with its significant resources was able to do for ‘donkey’s years’. 

“It wasn’t until we got them in the court, into the high court, and we got the judgements, the outstanding judgements from Judge Fraser, that the narrative changed.” 

“They started losing their footing in all of this, and we started to take over.” 

The most important thing in all of this, Bates told Tame, is getting the financial redress for the victims. 

“They’ve been waiting far too long.” 

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