Alan Bates learnt of knighthood as Post Office boss was grilled

The campaigner and former sub-postmaster, Alan Bates, was at the public inquiry into the Post Office scandal when he received the news that he was to be knighted in the King’s Birthday Honours.

He had travelled from his home in Llandudno to hear former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells give evidence, breaking her near-decade long silence.

“It was all a bit of a surprise,” Sir Alan, as he is now known, told the BBC.

He was told that he had to let the Honours Committee know by the end of the day whether he would accept.

For the last 15 years, Sir Alan has campaigned for justice for hundreds of sub-postmasters who were wrongfully prosecuted for theft and false accounting, when faulty software called Horizon made it look like money was missing from their accounts.

He had already rejected the offer of an OBE last year, telling the Honours Committee that it would be inappropriate to accept it whilst Ms Vennells kept hold of her CBE for services to the Post Office and many victims continued to suffer.

Ms Vennells handed back her CBE earlier this year amid mounting pressure in the aftermath of the ITV drama in January which sparked national outrage over the scandal.

“I went and had a confidential talk with somebody who knows what’s gone on over the years and they said to me, ‘well you’ve done the heavy lifting, others are doing the rest now.’ And on reflection, I knew so many people who were keen for me to actually receive something, I felt I would be insulting them as much as anyone else if I refused it at this time,” Sir Alan said.

He insisted the honour was not just for him but also for his group, the Justice for Sub-Postmasters Alliance, which he started in 2009.

“I think it’s another string to my bow to try and drive the rest of the campaign home. We have got to get funding for everybody. And that’s been my priority now for some time. And if it helps there, then great. It’s wonderful.”

Sir Alan said his work was far from finished, adding that he would pursue court action, if necessary, to get financial redress for the victims who took part in the original High Court action that helped expose the Horizon IT scandal.

“I think the nation will support us if we have to go ahead with another case,” he said.

The former sub-postmaster’s dogged pursuit of the truth began after refusing to accept losses at his own post office which he took over in 1998. Had he ever thought about giving up and letting it go?

“I could never do that. We’ve all seen the horror stories, and there are so many. I keep hearing from so many more these days who are coming out of the woodwork and stories that have never been told. I mean, they’re absolutely diabolical.

“What’s happened to people is very sad but at least they’re now starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel for themselves.”

He described his work as the best unpaid job he’d ever had and said he was looking forward to having a holiday this summer.

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