Alan Bates, a former sub-postmaster who spearheaded the campaign for justice in the Post Office Horizon scandal, has stated that he will decline a compensation offer from the government. The government had announced plans to provide “full and fair compensation” to sub-postmasters impacted by the IT scandal in 2022. However, Bates described the offer as “offensive” and “cruel”, stating that it was approximately a sixth of what he had asked for.
Bates’s twenty-year battle for justice inspired a recent ITV series that narrated the experiences of hundreds of sub-postmasters and postmistresses who were wrongfully prosecuted due to faulty computer software that inaccurately reported missing funds from post office branches. Between 1999 and 2015, the Post Office itself prosecuted 700 individuals, averaging one person per week.
In 2017, 555 sub-postmasters filed a lawsuit against the Post Office, which agreed to pay them £58m in compensation two years later. However, most of this amount was consumed by legal costs. Bates, who took charge of a Post Office counter in Llandudno, North Wales in 1998, was among the over 500 individuals who received an average of about £20,000 following the High Court ruling in 2019.
Despite campaigners winning the right for their cases to be reconsidered, only 95 convictions have been overturned so far. The government has pledged to nullify their convictions and provide compensation. Bates revealed that the government made an offer on Wednesday, 111 days after his claim was submitted with the assistance of forensic accountants hired by his lawyers.
Bates criticized the offer as “derisory” and “cruel”, vowing to reject it. He also mentioned that several other sub-postmasters have received similarly low offers, while some are still waiting.
The government had previously stated its intention to “swiftly exonerate and compensate” those affected. Victims can sign a form declaring their innocence to have their convictions overturned and claim compensation. A government spokesperson stated that if any applicant to the Group Litigation Order (GLO) scheme believes they are entitled to more than what is being offered, the government is open to discussing the evidence with their legal advisers. If no agreement is reached, an independent panel comprising legal and accountancy experts will make the final decision based on the evidence.