LEAD campaigner and former North Wales subpostmaster Alan Bates has told the Horizon IT inquiry he believed the Post Office was “definitely trying to outspend us” as part of its “aggressive” tactics at the High Court.

Giving evidence in front of Post Office chief executive Nick Read on Tuesday, Mr Bates said the organisation “needs disbanding” and called it a “dead duck” that is “beyond saving”.

Mr Bates also took aim at the Government’s “fundamental flaw” of being unable to deal with issues such as the Horizon scandal “easily and sensibly”.

The campaigner said the mediation scheme set up to address the scandal was part of a “cover-up” and a “fishing expedition” to discover what evidence subpostmasters had about Horizon.

The Post Office 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 Government-owned organisation 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.


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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.

Asked whether Mr Read could have done a deal for redress with him, given he attended the hearing, Mr Bates told reporters: “He could have brought his chequebook couldn’t he, so we could have sorted it out there and then.”

The inquiry was shown slides from an undated presentation about Horizon integrity prepared by former Post Office manager Dave Smith, which said Mr Bates was sacked because he was “unmanageable”.


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One slide read: “Bates had discrepancies but was dismissed because he became unmanageable. Clearly struggled with accounting, and despite copious support, did not follow instructions.”

The inquiry also heard 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.”

Former postal minister Sir Ed Davey also came under fire for a “disappointing and offensive” letter in 2010 in which he declined a meeting and told the campaigner the Government had an “arm’s length relationship” with the Post Office despite it being the sole shareholder.

Sir Ed’s words prompted Mr Bates 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.

Edward Henry KC, who represents a number of subpostmasters, asked: “You’ve exposed over many years the Post Office’s suppression of disclosure covering up the truth over Horizon’s flaws, but you have also exposed, have you not, the Government’s reckless indifference to the Post Office’s misconduct over many years, would you agree?”

Mr Bates replied: “Yes, I think that is the case.

“Since this year, I suppose, since the drama, we’ve had far more publicity about the issue nationally.

“I’ve noticed there’s a general frustration with many other organisations that have that problem with Government as well.

“It seems to be a fundamental flaw in the way Government works that it can’t deal with these types of things easily and sensibly.”

Counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC questioned Mr Bates on what he believed the Post Office’s litigation strategy was during the case, after the judge at the time warned against “aggressive” tactics.

Mr Bates said: “They were definitely trying to outspend us – we had to raise commercial funding from it, they had a bottomless pocket as such, being a government organisation.

“So anything they could do to spin it out, anything they could do to recuse the judge or whatever, they did.

“Anything to cost us money and try and get us to stop the case.”

Mr Bates also reiterated his thoughts on the Post Office’s culture, saying: “It’s an atrocious organisation.

“They need disbanding. It needs removing. It needs building up again from the ground floor.

“The whole of the postal service nowadays – it’s a dead duck. It’s beyond saving.

“It needs to be sold to someone like Amazon. It needs a real big injection of money and I only think that can happen coming in from the outside.

“Otherwise it’s going to be a bugbear for the Government for the years to come.”

In his witness statement Mr Bates also said the Post Office had been “attempting to discredit and silence me” over the course of his 23-year campaign for justice.

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

Asked what he thought was the first question Ms Vennells should be asked when she gives evidence, Mr Bates laughed and told reporters: “How’s the villa in France?”

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