Alan Bates considers private prosecutions of Post Office bosses

Former sub-postmaster Alan Bates says he will consider raising funds for private prosecutions of Post Office bosses over the Horizon IT scandal.

He told the BBC he would act if the authorities did not take cases forward.

“It was fine when the Post Office brought private prosecutions, so if we’ve got to do it in return so be it”, he said.

mannycalavera, avatar

This will probably drag into the next government the way it’s going and it will be interesting to see what PM Starmer does about this when he’s in office.


Does this bloke ever sleep. Man needs to be invited to the Order of the Garter if not made a Duke.


Why the fuck do private prosecutions still exist? It’s the 21st century. If only the CPS could prosecute I doubt the Post Office scandal would have even happened, if only because they’re more thorough than the Post Office idiots

HeartyBeast avatar

Why the fuck do private prosecutions still exist?

Because you probably don’t want the state to have monopoly on prosecutions


Yes I do. Of all the options available, this is the best one. Any other option is worse by comparison.

HeartyBeast avatar

Interesting, so why would you prefer to live in a world where the Crown decided not to prosecute and Alan Bates was prevented from doing so?

NateNate60, (edited )

Yes, because for every one Alan Bates case, there are ten cases of billion-pound companies abusing this right, such as… oh, I don’t know, perhaps a few involving the Post Office?

HeartyBeast avatar

The ones bought by the post office weren’t typical private prosecutions - the Post Office is one of a handful of bodies allowed to directly bring prosecutions alongside the CPS. Yes, very happy to have those organisations lose they right.


The CPS, and equivalents in Scotland, brought around a third of the wrongful prosecutions.

The barristers the CPS employs to bring prosecutions are the same barristers used by the Post Office, using the same courts and the same judges.

This scandal just shines a light on how impossible the criminal justice system is for ordinary people with more limited means. Bates vs PO only happened because they managed to find 555 claimants (500 being the minimum their funders needed to risk it).

There was a case settled in 2003 because the court appointed a single independent expert to act for both sides and he pointed out all the holes in the Post Office case. That should have been the end of it. But they made the Cleveleys subpostmaster sign a confidentiality agreement, slandered the expert, and carried on prosecuting.

I told Post Office the truth about Horizon in 2003, IT expert says


The barristers the CPS employs to bring prosecutions are the same barristers used by the Post Office, using the same courts and the same judges.

That’s actually not entirely true. Although the CPS does engage “free” barristers via chambers for some cases, most CPS prosecutions are handled “in house” by salaried barristers working directly for the CPS.

CPS’s in-house barristers are (as a rough rule) extremely experienced at prosecuting common-or-garden cases, but lack the specialist experience of barristers available to hire via chambers, who they will usually bring in for the more complex prosecutions (or ones involving a specialist area of expertise).

All barristers are only as good as the evidence given to them, though, and one of the real strengths of the CPS barristers is experience in working with the police- both in terms of knowing how to get the best evidence out of them, and knowing a police wild goose chase when they see one. This is the part that really breaks down in cases like the Post Office, where it’s private corporate investigators throwing complex technical evidence over the fence at random barristers who have mostly not worked with them before.


All barristers are only as good as the evidence given to them

That’s not entirely true. The Secret Barrister made a good point on the site I won’t visit to grab the link: people always ask how you can defend someone you know is guilty; they never ask how you can prosecute someone who you know is innocent.

We have an adversarial system, not an inquisatorial one. Barristers are paid to present one case or the other, not decide what is true for themselves.

There are barristers and judges who may well be sanctioned, professionally if not also criminally, for their part in this scandal. Richard Morgan is one that sticks in my mind. He relied on an entirely circular argument (Lee Castleton signed off the accounts therefore the reliability of Horizon is irrelevant, even though it produced the accounts that Castleton had to sign if he wanted to continue trading). If you read/watch his appearance at the inquiry, it appears to literally dawn on him during the questioning. He was professionally negligent and he should not be allowed to get away with it.

Palacegalleryratio, (edited )

I mean, good. He’s right to do so and I support his goal, these bosses should pay for their actions.

But I suspect he is going to find out the hard way which class of people the judiciary works for.

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