Post Office hero ‘was asked to open Glastonbury’

Actor Toby Jones has hailed former sub-postmaster Alan Bates a “hero” after playing him in a drama which has been credited with raising awareness of the Post Office scandal.

Bates tenaciously led the campaign for justice for the hundreds of sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted of theft and false accounting because of a faulty IT system called Horizon.

Many more lost their homes, livelihoods and good reputations to repay non-existent shortfalls.

Former subpostmaster and lead campaigner Alan Bates arrives at Aldwych House
Former sub-postmaster and lead campaigner Alan Bates. Pic: PA

The four-part ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office brought the story – which has been called the largest miscarriage of justice in British legal history – to the screen in January.

Jones, 57, told the Hay Festival: “I get to play a hero. Really, someone who I think of as a hero. Someone in the culture who just doesn’t seem to be subject to the same forces that we all are.

“He can’t be bought. He’s asked to open Glastonbury. ‘No, thank you’. He’s asked to do these things, he doesn’t want to do any of that. He says, ‘I’ve got work to do’, which is to get that stuff done.

“He’s a hero and he doesn’t want any honours until he’s finished the job. And these are values that, I’m not going to say I grew up with, but I sort of remember being lectured about. About duty and about following things through.

“These are very, very unfashionable things that maybe stand in stark contrast with what we’ve been living with in government for some time.”

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He said he believed part of the show’s success was down to a national “feeling of disempowerment”.

Jones said: “I think that there’s something in the country at the moment. There’s a feeling of disempowerment.

“There’s a feeling of outrage, justly, and the story is told very clearly, and it’s by no means obvious. Computer software malfunction is not an obvious thing to make a drama about.”

Praising the sub-postmasters caught up in the real-life scandal, he paid tribute to their “incredible humble modest humility” – adding they had lived through “20 years of living in a Hitchcockian nightmare”.

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Pic: PA
Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells arrives to give her second day of evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House, central London. Picture date: Thursday May 23, 2024. PA Photo. See PA story INQUIRY Horizon. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells. Pic: PA

Last month, former Post Office boss Paula Vennells came face-to-face with some of the sub-postmasters affected by the scandal when she gave three days of evidence at the Post Office Inquiry.

Following the TV series, Ms Vennells returned her CBE (commander of the British empire) before it was eventually removed from her by the King in February for “bringing the honours system into disrepute”.

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