Post Office campaigner Alan Bates to reject ‘paltry’ compensation offer

A solicitor representing around 500 former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses said Mr Bates is not the only one unhappy with his offer, ITV News' Amy Lewis reports

One of the leading Post Office Horizon scandal campaigners has said he will reject an offer of compensation from the government, which he says is "around a sixth" of what he asked for.

Alan Bates, whose two-decade fight inspired the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office, told ITV News the offer was “paltry".

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Bates said: "It’s a paltry offer. I’m frustrated by the insincerity of the Post Office and how long it’s taking to go through the compensation process.

"It just goes on and on and on.

"That was supposed to be their best offer and now it means prolonging the process even further, for myself and hundreds of others.

"I am one of hundreds of sub-postmasters who have refused their compensation offers. I will need to talk to my solicitors about next steps."

A solicitor representing around 500 former sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses said Mr Bates is not the only one unhappy with his offer, adding that "what's happening on the ground is a million miles away from what government say their intention is".

The government confirmed plans for “full and fair compensation” to those affected by the IT scandal in 2022, which between 1999 and 2015 saw more than 700 staff members wrongly prosecuted of theft, false accounting and fraud due to faulty accounting software called Horizon.

“‘Full and fair’ might be His Majesty’s Government’s interpretation, but in reality, the offer is derisory, offensive and after all this time, yes, cruel," Mr Bates said in further comments to the Telegraph.

He said the offer had been made on Wednesday, 111 days after his claim – prepared with the help of forensic accountants engaged by his lawyers – had been submitted.

“I have been in the queue along with all the others in the scheme, but if my case is an example of the way they are going to treat all cases, we may as well start looking at a legal action again and let the judiciary decide," he said.

Mr Bates was among more than 500 people who received an average of about £20,000 after a High Court ruling in 2019.

Neil Hudgell, a solicitor representing hundreds of Horizon scandal claimants, told ITV News: "I've got plenty of examples of clients who are in a similar situation who've been offered fractions of what they're claiming, or are expected to go on this tortuous hunt for documents that don't exist to support very modest numbers.

"So what's happening on the ground is a million miles away from what government say their intention is.

Neil Hudgell, a solicitor representing hundreds of Post Office Horizon claimants. Credit: PA

Mr Hudgell said "we've come a long way in one sense and nowhere in another".

"We’ll just continue to chip away until we get to that point where these poor, hideously wronged people are put back in the position they should've been, so the fight goes on."

Labour's Jonathan Reynolds told ITV News he is "hugely concerned" that wrongly convicted ex-sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses are still not getting the compensation they need.

"The whole country feels that Alan Bates is a hero and I think people want to see people like Alan receive the compensation that they are entitled to – I still don’t think it’ll go to right the scale of this wrong – but it’s one thing that’s clearly necessary," the shadow secretary for business said.

He pointed out that the government has already put aside £1 billion for compensation, "so the money should be there and people like Alan should be getting what they need".

"So I’m hugely concerned. The process as it is should be delivering swift redress so clearly this needs looking at."

Laura Trott, chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "We are absolutely committed to making sure postmasters get compensation for the historic injustice they’ve suffered."

Ms Trott admitted victims had waited years for justice but insisted "there's been a lot that's been done" by the government in that time period.

She pointed out there are three compensation schemes, with each offering different levels of minimum amounts that can be offered, adding: "There is a process to go through to try and increase those offers but we want to make sure that everybody is getting the compensation they deserve."

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Alan Bates is a distinguished campaigner and deserves the right level of compensation for the suffering he’s been through, that’s the same for all subpostmasters.

“Claims are looked at by external lawyers who look at the evidence and provide advice to officials, and now anyone who is not content with their offer is eventually able to take their claim to an independent panel who can decide.”

He said January’s data shows there have been 59 claims that month, with 44 offers and 29 acceptances.

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