Alan Bates, who fought for many years to reveal the Post Office Horizon IT scandal, says it will be inappropriate to just accept an OBE when former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells nonetheless holds her CBE
- Karl Flinders,
Chief reporter and senior editor EMEA
Published: 10 Jan 2023 9:00
The former subpostmaster who uncovered one of many largest miscarriages of justice in historical past has rejected the offer of an OBE for providers to justice as a result of he believes it’s “inappropriate” whereas victims nonetheless undergo and one of many scandal’s architects retains her honour.
Alan Bates, who has campaigned relentlessly for over 20 years to attain justice for subpostmasters who had been blamed and prosecuted for unexplained accounting shortfalls attributable to pc errors, mentioned it will be inappropriate to just accept the offer as a result of former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells nonetheless holds her CBE, bringing the “whole honours system into disrepute”.
Bates thanked all of the individuals who put his title ahead for the award, however advised the Honours Committee:“Whilst I do appreciate that there may well be people who believe that after the many years of my unpaid campaigning, which I led in order to expose the truth, I deserve some recognition for my work, but I hope you can understand why it would be so inappropriate for me to accept any award at present, while so many of the victims continue to suffer so badly and [Paula] Vennells still retains an honour and remains a ‘role model’ to the Honours Committee.”
In May 2022, Tom Scholar, chairman of the Honours Forfeiture Committee, mentioned his group would rethink Vennells’ award as soon as the present public inquiry into the Post Office scandal is full.
Vennells led the Post Office throughout a scandal and left simply earlier than a harmful High Court judgment, which slammed the Post Office administration that punished subpostmasters for errors made by its personal pc system. She took over £400,000 in pay and bonuses along with her.
Years of campaigning
Bates revealed the offer and his response in a round to the 555 members of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA),the marketing campaign group he set up in 2009.
Following the introduction of the Post Office’s Horizon pc system from Fujitsu in 2000, which was to automate retail and accounting, subpostmaters started struggling unexplained shortfalls, for which they had been blamed. Many needed to repay giant sums of cash and 736 had been prosecuted, a few of whom had been despatched to jail.
In what has change into often known as the Post Office Horizon scandal, tons of of subpostmasters had their lives ruined after being blamed for unexplained accounting shortfalls, which had been truly attributable to pc errors. Computer Weekly first reported on issues with the Horizon system in 2009, when it made public the tales of a bunch of subpostmasters affected by reporting errors (see timeline of articles under).
Bates grew to become subpostmaster on the Post Office in Craig-y-Don, north Wales, in 1998. But by the tip of 2000, after the introduction of the Post Office’s Horizon pc system, provided by Fujitsu, issues began to go mistaken, with unexplained losses showing in his accounts.
The subpostmaster contract mentioned he was answerable for paying the cash, however he refused and demanded the pc proof to show the reason for the losses.
In 2003, Bates had his contract terminated when he refused to adjust to Post Office coverage. A decade and a half later, towards the percentages, he took the Post Office to the High Court in a bunch litigation order (GLO) and received a multimillion-pound authorized case, proving pc errors – not subpostmaster dishonesty or fault – had brought about the losses.
This courtroom victory was the catalyst for extra that 80 former subpostmaster prosecutions, to date, to be overturned on the Court of Appeal, and instigated a statutory public inquiry into the scandal, which is ongoing. It additionally led to a authorities and Post Office settlement to compensate victims financially.
Originally set up for subpostmasters affected by shortfalls to recoup the cash that they had paid the Post Office to cowl losses, the JFSA grew to become a marketing campaign group that uncovered enormous failures in authorities, the authorized system, the Post Office and Fujitsu.
Bates first contacted Computer Weekly concerning the points in 2004. He was featured in an article in 2009, which, for the primary time, advised the story of seven individuals affected by errors within the Post Office’s Horizon system. This highlighted the issue, prompting tons of of affected individuals, every of whom had been advised by the Post Office that they had been the one ones having issues, to return ahead.
Further investigation pending
In his communication to JFSA members, Bates additionally revealed that the Parliamentary Ombudsman had confirmed it will examine authorities maladministration in its dealing with of the Post Office scandal.
In July 2000, to help its submission to the Ombudsman, the JFSA raised £100,000 in simply six weeks utilizing Crowdjustice, a crowdfunding platform targeted on elevating cash for authorized instances. In November that 12 months, its criticism concerning the authorities started its journey to the Parliamentary Ombudsman.
“It was a long time in coming, but in late October 2022, I received a letter from the [Parliamentary Ombudsman] in which they informed me they have ‘decided to confirm the decision to investigate the complaint’ and that they would be sending me ‘a more formal letter explaining that soon’,” Bates wrote.
“I have been waiting for that letter since then in order to inform you of the details of their proposed investigation, but as yet nothing has arrived. In response to querying no receipt of any letter, the [Parliamentary Ombudsman] responded in December informing me that they had still to clarify how best to ‘navigate the practical difficulties of our investigating at the same time as the inquiry’ and that they ‘need to resolve that before we write formally’.”
“I am aware that [it] had already undertaken considerable initial investigation work before they wrote in October, but at the time we had submitted the complaint there had been no inquiry set up – in fact, at that time, [the] government had been trying to say the whole issue was over and done with. However, since then, we have managed to obtain an inquiry and turn it into a statutory inquiry, and I think there may well be others who are now trying to dismiss the need for the [Parliamentary Ombudsman] to investigate, under the guise that the [Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] inquiry will deal with it.”
In his e mail, Bates additionally signalled the tip of an period when he advised members that after all compensation is paid to JFSA members, the marketing campaign group will finish its work, stating that “…the main aim behind the reason we set up the JFSA has almost been achieved, and hopefully by the time the closing date of the GLO compensation scheme is reached in August 2024 the JFSA can close its doors”.
Neil Hudgell, chairman at Hudgell Solicitors, which represents tons of of victims of the Post Office scandal, mentioned Bates has “pulled up trees and moved mountains”.
Bates hailed a ‘hero’
Campaigners and subpostmasters paid tribute to Bates.
Eleanor Shaikh, who has vigorously campaigned for justice since her native subpostmaster fell sufferer to the scandal, mentioned: “The Horizon scandal might still be buried if it weren’t for Alan’s extraordinary persistence and courage. He created the JFSA, allowing victims to meet, share information, join forces and become the trailblazers that exposed [the] Post Office’s can of worms. Without his selfless determination, there wouldn’t have been a High Court case; every other step towards justice has been built on the success of that litigation. He continues to devote his life to attempting to right [the] Post Office’s wrongs and deserves the utmost credit for what he’s achieved so far.”
Jo Hamilton, former subpostmaster
Former subpostmaster Jo Hamilton, who had her wrongful conviction for false accounting overturned on the Court of Appeal in April 2021, mentioned: “Against all the odds, Alan took on Goliath and won. He battled tirelessly and selflessly for more than two decades to secure justice and restoration for hundreds of innocent subpostmasters. What a man, our hero.”
James Arbuthnot, who grew to become concerned within the marketing campaign for justice as MP for North East Hampshire when Hamilton, a constituent, contacted him, mentioned Alan Bates has devoted his life to placing proper the numerous wrongs completed to the subpostmasters by the Post Office: “He is a man of incredible determination who, in fighting for justice, has made history. He realised he alone could not prevail, and he created the JFSA, which brought the subpostmasters together. Then he raised the funds to bring the GLO and led the subpostmasters in their battle, winning an extraordinary victory against the Post Office, the self-styled ‘most trusted brand in the country’. Because the case had to be settled on unfair terms, he then continued to pursue the government through the ombudsman, Parliament and the courts to ensure that wrongful convictions were overturned in unprecedented numbers and compensation would be given to many hundreds of subpostmasters.”
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…. to be continued
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