Based on a real-life event, the BBC series, Mr. Bates vs. The Post Office, brings to light one of the greatest miscarriages of justice that took place in the British legal history. This four-part miniseries revolves around a subpostmaster named Alan Bates, who was accused of stealing money from his post office accounts, but Alan knew that it was the Horizon computer system that was to blame for these huge monetary discrepancies. Alan later found out that, just like him, many other subpostmasters had suffered the same fate, which ultimately prompted Alan to gather all those subpostmasters who were wrongly accused and demand a public inquiry to find out the truth. Alan Bates, played by Toby Jones, is inspired by a real-life person of the same name who fought against the injustice perpetrated against the subpostmasters. Let’s discuss Alan Bates’ character to learn more about him.
Who Was Alan Bates?
Alan Bates, a 68-year-old subpostmaster from North Wales, was terminated from his post office duties after the Post Office accused him of theft. Alan had always denied his involvement in the shortfall of Post Office money and believed that it was some kind of glitch that the computer system was having. However, it was not just a glitch; something more sinister was behind this shortfall. Alan Bates and his wife Suzanne never gave up hope on themselves and tried to look for several other jobs to serve their family, but when Alan saw his wife was talking about taking up a janitor’s job at this age, he decided he ought to do something.
Shortly, Alan noticed that he was not the only one who had suffered such accusations; a great many other subpostmasters were facing the same. However, whenever any of those postmasters made a complaint about the sudden shortfall in their account to the Post Office Horizon, the Horizon overlooked their concern, saying that he or she was the only one having this problem. Each and every subpostmaster, whoever had complained about this shortfall, had received the same response from Horizon.
Meanwhile, many of the subpostmasters who were utterly confused about the situation and put their faith in Horizon were asked by the Post Office to plead guilty for the theft; otherwise, the Post Office would never clear their names from the criminal record. Joe Hamilton, Lee Castlestone, Noel Thomas, and many more were charged with the theft, while Noel, as well as Joe, pleaded guilty to recover their post office and to get their names cleared from the criminal record, but it made the matter worse as society began to look down upon Joe and Noel, and people could no longer trust them. In such a dire situation, Alan Bates decided to gather them all and give them a beacon of hope that one day they’d all overcome this trouble together. One by one, many subpostmasters joined the group, and Alan Bates soon talked to the Managing Director of the Post Office Horizon, initiating a public inquiry to unravel the mystery behind this shortfall of money.
The money getting deducted from the subpostmasters’ accounts was a substantial amount of money, so Joe began to question where that money was going. The legal team that teamed up with Alan Bates in his endeavor against this miscarriage of justice couldn’t properly answer that question, but they assumed that all those figures that were stolen from the subpostmasters’ accounts were going to Horizon’s profit. This not only enraged the convicted postmasters but also encouraged them not to give up in their battle for justice.
What Is The Difference Between The Series And Real Life?
Alan Bates is truly an inspiring personality who has the capability of inspiring many people to fight for their rights and justice. Even in real life, Alan is an honest, hardworking individual with the great capability of leading a group of people and guiding them in the proper direction. There are not many differences between the real-life Alan Bates and the one depicted in the miniseries because, as portrayed by Toby Jones, Mr. Bates’ character was completely based on the real-life figure, who continued his work for the subpostmasters to give them their life back. Just as depicted in the film, Alan Bates has a lovely and caring wife, Suzanne Sercombe, originally from London. Suzanne became a great source of support in Alan’s life, even though she dealt with sickness for a short period of time. Suzanne Sercombe and Alan Bates lost a huge amount of money in establishing their post office in Wales, but they had to lose it all after the Post Office Horizon accused them of theft. But Suzanne never abandoned her hope in Alan; rather, she believed that her husband had the potential to bring justice for themselves as well as the other postmasters who were suffering in this situation.
Finally, in 2021, teaming up with the legal team and with the help of a whistleblower from the tech company Fujitsu, which was actually operating Horizon and caused a significant data alteration in the subpostmasters’ accounts, Alan Bates managed to get the truth out. After the misdeeds committed by the Post Office Horizon were exposed to the public, the court decided to exonerate Joe Hamilton, Noel Tjomas, and other convicted postmasters for having no solid proof that they had ever committed a theft. However, still, many of the postmasters continued to suffer the accusations, and Alan Bates didn’t back off from his duties to deliver justice. The court finally settled with 555 claimants and agreed to give them £58 million as compensation. This infamous case of the Horizon Scandal became the biggest miscarriage of justice, which falsely convicted almost 700 subpostmasters, amongst which only 80 cases had been overturned. Some had been exonerated, while others had gone to prison. But the most tragic thing was that this miscarriage of justice had caused a lot of people to suffer from depression. 18 of them had committed suicide and never got the chance to witness how Alan became successful in bringing them justice.
Where Is Alan Bates Now?
Alan Bates is now a renowned figure for his constant fight against the Post Office Horizon and for guiding a group of helpless people from darkness to light. But Alan Bates believed that his fight didn’t end there. He continued to raise his voice for the people whose lives had been affected by the Horizon scandal. In 2023, he was awarded the Pride of Britain, but Alan Bates, who was a man of honor, refused to accept the distinguished position of OBE. He believed that if he ever accepts this honor, while the former CEO of Horizon, Paula Vennells, is still eligible to continue her service in the post office, his fight for the falsely convicted people would have been futile.
Alan Bates started this fight against the Horizon when he was elderly and had so many dreams to fulfil in his retirement. He wanted to travel with his wife and have a peaceful life, but instead of all that, he sacrificed his desires and became a revolutionary figure in British legal history. He was compassionate and empathetic towards the common men like him who suffered such false accusations and lost their peace of mind. Many people had backed out; some had given up on themselves, but Alan remained a strong force who eventually motivated them to be strong and fight until the truth was revealed.