Alan Bates threatens legal action against the government

Alan Bates in 2018

Alan Bates has threatened “possible legal action” against the government for their perceived foot-dragging over financial redress for 555 Subpostmasters who joined him in the Bates v Post Office group litigation order (GLO) High Court case.

Most of the 555 qualify for the government’s special GLO compensation scheme*, announced in 2022 and initially designed to complete in August 2024. When it became apparent that was a completely ludicrous deadline, it was extended by statutory instrument. Bates himself has received two offers of compensation, both of which he has refused, describing the process as an “ongoing uphill struggle“. It’s thought his first offer was for around 18% of his claim (“derisory”) and the second around 30%.

In a Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance email circular, Bates has demanded the government appoint “a highly competent and independent person“, agreed by the Business department, the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance and the individual lawyers for the 555.. Bates says they “should be given the authority to drive all the outstanding cases through to conclusion, and instruct all those involved to accept their decisions on all cases. They should be able to review any case at any stage and cut through the nightmare bureaucracy dragging this issue out year after year. And that needs to happen now.

In his circular Bates complains: “we now find ourselves back in a similar position to that which we had with Post Office i.e. Government has hold of the control of the narrative, and this is the big problem we are having to deal with nowadays.

Bates continues:

“Some of you may have noticed that following the Minister’s March 2022 announcement that a Scheme was to be launched for us, this was when the early signs of Government’s controlling spin started to appear. They called it a ‘compensation scheme’ and ever since then we have been trying, with limited success, to have the Scheme rightly referred to as a financial redress scheme, which it actually is. Compensation is different to financial redress, as financial redress is meant to put you back to a position you would have been in had Post Office not done what it did to you, which was the agreed aim of the Scheme.”

Bates also has a gripe about the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, on which Lord Arbuthnot sits:

“During the 2022 meetings about the proposed structure of the Scheme with BEIS, latterly DBT, and from here on referred to as the Department, we knew an independent Oversight committee needed to be formed to deal with any concerns that arose for the victims and to ensure the Scheme moved swiftly. With that committee having the authority to be able to move in and sort any logjams that might occur. In principle the formation of such a committee was agreed and when supporters of our long fought campaign were appointed to it, at first glance all seemed very promising.

“However, the reality of what actually occurred was very different. The Department set the committee up, renamed it an Advisory Board and reduced its remit whilst broadening the Schemes it was to encompass. Furthermore, the Department acts as the secretariat to the Advisory Board and keeps the keys as to whom is allowed access to it. The JFSA has never once been allowed to engage with the Board at its meetings or was included in the discussions about its remit, and this too has been a further example of how it is now the Department is controlling the narrative.

“As is recognised now, the first year of the Scheme was basically lost because Post Office either by design or with its usual systemic incompetence could not cope with being able to provide disclosure on the bulk of your cases despite holding the names of all the victims at the time of the Minister’s announcement in March 2022. Both we, the JFSA and Freeths [the solicitors who acted for the JFSA in Bates v Post Office and in helping them set up the GLO scheme], warned the Department at the earliest of meetings we had with it after March 2022, pointing out that Post Office disclosure was going to be the major stumbling block. Yet as usual, the Department would not listen to advice from those with years of experience of battling Post Office, it arrogantly took the opinion that it knew better and it would not happen under its watch – how wrong that proved to be, and we all have had to suffer because of that. And all this feels a bit déjà vu-ish of Post Office with their Schemes and the way they twisted and controlled them.”

Bates tells the group that 150 people in the GLO scheme have gone for the £75,000 take-it-or-leave-it offer and a further 10 – 20 people have settled for larger sums. A similar number have not responded to Freeths or the JFSA, leaving around 320 outstanding, so called “complex” cases to resolve.

Bates says he doesn’t know what progress is being made with the bulk of those cases because he “can’t believe the figures from the Department ‘controlling the narrative’, as there is no transparency to the figures they hold on their spreadsheets. Some figures are available from other sources, but there is nothing independently verified.”

If things continue to stall, Bates says legal action is being considered and will be discussed at some, as-yet-unscheduled JFSA meetings this Autumn (which Bates firmly notes will not be held at Fenny Compton). Bates says the prospect of going back to court is “unfortunate“, but concludes “if that’s the only way, so be it, and have no doubt we have the support of the nation and the media if we have to go out and raise the funds needed to go to court again.

He’s almost certainly right on that point!

* 63 of the 555 had criminal convictions, which have now been overturned, qualifying them for the Overturned Conviction “scheme”


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14 responses to “Alan Bates threatens legal action against the government”

  1. Nicholas Andrew Edwards avatar
    Nicholas Andrew Edwards

    Why hasn’t there been a simple “follow-the-money” investigation showing that payments wrongfully required of Postmasters ended up in bonuses to executives?

  2. I have always wondered why the govt has to pay anything, the PM just should order Fujitsu to pay £1 million each to everyone affected..£1.5 million to anyone who went to jail…and £2 million to any family who had a a sucide .

    They can appear at No 10 and write the cheques nad then the cheque taken to another room where the post office board can write a letter to each person and then lick the envelopes and stamps – all televised live

    1. Because HMG is at least as culpable as Fujitsu, having sat on the board, approved board bonuses, closed their eyes and handed out unlimited funding to po they wholly owned, and funded ridiculous litigation tactics in the glo. And now slowing down redress.

      1. Yes. The government is involved in this scandal right up to its neck. I believe it greatly influenced decision-making by PO execs from the earliest days of Horizon. Incompetent oversight of Fujitsu software deals has meant a foreign company has day-to-day control of our armed forces logistics, and politicians chose to remain ignorant and uncaring about the obvious security implications. They didn’t take their eye off the ball because they never had an eye on it. Now they are in too deep with Fujitsu (which runs rings around them) and, far too late, wants them gone. They have extended Fujitsu contracts for years because they have no clue how to replace them. Fujitsu now has the whip hand, a position no credible government department should ever have allowed to happen.
        The government always had to keep Fujitsu happy, choosing to downplay or ignore worrying issues with its poor software. And on that altar, the livelihoods, reputations and futures of 900 postmasters were sacrificed.

  3. forensic accountant avatar
    forensic accountant

    Dear Nick,
    A rare lapse by you.
    To describe Alan Bates’ highly justified grievances and outrage as “gripes” is an abuse of language.
    In my books, he has shown remarkable restraint!
    In my books, between fifty and a hundred people need to be arrested, charged, prosecuted, tried, convicted and jailed for significant periods – aggregate custodial sentences to be in the order of a thousand years in prison.
    Please amend your unfortunate choice of wording.

    1. I’m only an Antipodean, but I think Nick was being ironic.

  4. Mr Bates should be standing for parliament. He would be the only MP who cares about the electorate and would fight for them. But as long as the moronic public get excited about tit bits of tax breaks and promises of pension reform without realising how they are being ripped off this country will continue to chew up and spit out the little people who know the value of integrity and decency.

    1. The reader of this comment reply might find it of interest to read my website, hosted in Australia, https://www.absentjustice.com/, and the Casualties of Telstra story, which is similar in many incidents to the Post Office Scandal in the UK. I would appreciate any correspondence from you regarding where I could email Alan Bates.

      Absent Justice – Documentary Alan-Bates vs Post Office

  5. Philip Wardle avatar

    The Human Rights Act also requires UK courts, including the Supreme Court, to “take account” of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (which sits in Strasbourg). UK courts are not required, however, always to follow the decisions of that Court.

    Given Alan Bates’ succinct summary of the UK Government’s efforts to influence, or maybe directly manage, the operation of the various schemes, might it now be appropriate to crowd fund action at the European Court of Human Rights? This would remove the issue from control of the UK establishment and establish conditions for an objective review of how subpostmasters have been treated.

  6. As Alisdair Cameron opined a week or so back, the redress will be measured in billions rather than millions….just get on with it

    1. Government will drag out the process in order to protect PO execs, in my view. PV &c know a good deal about HMG involvement in Horizon over time. Their limited recollections at the enquiry might be enhanced by the prospect of being deprived of their liberty in subsequent court action.

  7. Elizabeth Moyse avatar
    Elizabeth Moyse

    Election coming up so Post Office Scandal no longer on front pages. Suggest challenging each political party /each candidate to say what they will do to speed all this up – and if they use the word ‘compensation’ get them to admit it is NOT compensation but repaying stolen money

    1. Jamie Campbell avatar
      Jamie Campbell

      I like your idea, Elizabeth. It would show politicians these issues are not disappearing, and the public want action for justice on those issues.

  8. Steven Ksiezak avatar
    Steven Ksiezak

    I wish they could sue PV and Avb and others personally. I would. definitely contribute to crowdfunding that.

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