Lead campaigner and former Llandudno subpostmaster Alan Bates was sacked by the Post Office because it considered him “unmanageable”, the Horizon IT Inquiry has heard.

The probe was shown slides from an undated presentation about Horizon integrity prepared by a former Post Office manager, which claimed Mr Bates “clearly struggled with accounting”.


The presentation, created by the organisation’s former managing director of branch accounting Dave Smith, read: “Bates had discrepancies but was dismissed because he became unmanageable. Clearly struggled with accounting, and despite copious support, did not follow instructions.”

An internal review of Mr Bates’s dismissal concluded he was “unsuitable” to be a postmaster, and said: “The decision to terminate was not only right – it was the only sensible option.”

The inquiry heard that Mr Bates was critical of Sir Ed Davey after the former postal affairs minister refused a meeting with him in 2010, describing the now Liberal Democrat leader’s words as “disappointing and offensive”.

Sir Ed told Mr Bates the then government had an “arm’s-length relationship” with the Post Office, which prompted the campaigner to respond with another letter which read: “It’s not that you can’t get involved or cannot investigate the matter, after all you do own 100% of the shares and normally shareholders are concerned about the morality of the business they own.

“It is because you have adopted an arm’s-length relationship that you have allowed a once great institution to be asset stripped by little more than thugs in suits, and you have enabled them to carry on with impunity regardless of the human misery and suffering they inflict.”

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said Sir Ed was “lied to” and was “sorry that he didn’t see through the Post Office’s lies, and that it took him five months to meet Mr Bates”.

Mr Bates said the Government needs to be held “responsible” for its part in the Horizon scandal after “pumping huge amounts of money” into the Post Office.

The organisation has come under fire since the broadcast of ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which put the Horizon IT scandal under the spotlight.

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Mr Bates had his contract terminated by the Post Office in 2003 after refusing to accept liability for shortfalls in the accounts at his branch in Craig-y-Don.

He gave evidence from the witness box on Tuesday in front of Post Office chief executive Nick Read as he spoke of the organisation “attempting to discredit and silence me” over the course of his 23-year campaign.

Asked if it was ever explained to him that he became “unmanageable”, the campaigner smiled and said: “No, not at all.”

Lead counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC asked: “First of all, did you struggle with accounting?”

Mr Bates said: “No, not at all.”

Mr Beer continued: “Were you given copious support?”

Mr Bates laughed and said: “No.”

The inquiry heard that an undated review of Mr Bates’ dismissal claimed there was evidence of his “unsuitability” as a postmaster.

Mr Beer asked: “Was that ever put to you, that you were unsuitable to be a postmaster?”

He replied: “No, but they’d appointed me in the first instance.”

Asked if he was aware of any evidence that he was unsuitable to be a postmaster, Mr Bates said: “I have records of that time, which were statements from the retail network manager… Mike Wakeley, to say how well the office was doing and well done for all the hard work.

“It’s a nonsense. This was just them flexing their muscle and just deciding they’re right and I was wrong.”

Mr Bates submitted a 58-page witness statement to the inquiry, in which he said the relationship between subpostmasters and the Post Office was “very one-sided”.

He told the probe: “I had been led to believe that subpostmasters were working in partnership with the Post Office, and if the Post Office wanted me to measure up to the standards they required, I expected them to do the same for me.

“However, over time, it soon became evident that the ‘partnership’ was very one-sided, and it really was a question of ‘you will do as you are told and if you don’t like it, you can’t complain and there is no redress on this, and you just get on and keep your mouth closed’ — that’s how it works.”

He added: “Prior to and since my termination from the branch, I have spent the last 23 years campaigning to expose the truth, and justice, not just for myself, but for the entire group of wrongly treated/wrongly convicted subpostmasters.

“I have dedicated this period of my life to this cause which, sadly, has been necessary since Post Office Ltd has spent this entire period denying, lying, defending and attempting to discredit and silence me and the group of SPMs that the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) represents.”

Mr Bates told the inquiry he first raised issues with the Horizon system in 2000, and on one day in December that year he called the Post Office helpline seven times, with one call lasting around an hour.

Mr Beer asked: “Were they of any assistance at all in those seven calls?”

Mr Bates replied: “Not really.”

He chuckled before adding: “Stating the bleeding obvious, I think, really, is one description I might use – but it was all things that I’d tried.”

Addressing his campaign for justice for subpostmasters, Mr Bates said: “As you got to meet people and realised it wasn’t just yourself, and saw the harm and justice that had been descended upon them, it was something you felt you had to deal with. It’s something you couldn’t put down.”

He was called to give evidence as part of phases five and six of the inquiry, which will also see former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells, who led the organisation at the height of the scandal, face questions.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.