A petition has been launched to honour former sub-postmaster Alan Bates with a knighthood in recognition of his battle for justice for those wronged in the Post Office Horizon scandal.
Bates, who was at the centre of the ITV drama that this month catapulted the scandal to the political fore, took the Post Office to court in 2018, leading to the software errors being revealed and the Post Office agreeing to settle with hundreds of claimants.
The petition, which has 130,000 signatures, says "granting a knighthood to Alan Bates will acknowledge the struggle he has had to bring this injustice to light and the great benefit he has given to the sub-postmasters who have suffered throughout this ordeal". A similar petition from the Mirror newspaper has also reached 130,000 signatures.
It comes as the business secretary Kemi Badenoch has requested a meeting to discuss compensation talks with Fujitsu, the firm that developed the faulty Horizon system for the Post Office, following its admission of a "moral obligation" to contribute to sub-postmasters wronged in the scandal.
Days after ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office prompted outcry, Rishi Sunak announced that those wrongly prosecuted in England and Wales could have their names cleared by the end of the year under fast-tracked legislation.
Those whose convictions are quashed are eligible for a £600,000 compensation payment, while Sunak offered £75,000 to sub-postmasters involved in group legal action against the Post Office. The scale of the eventual bill is unclear, but ministers have set aside up to £1bn for compensation.
Who is Alan Bates?
Bates is a former sub-postmaster who gained recognition for his extensive work in raising concerns about the Horizon computer system. The 69-year-old took over a shop with a Post Office counter in 1998, and by the end of 2000, he noticed a shortage of £6,000 on his books due to issues with the Horizon system.
Bates resolved the problem by identifying several duplicated transactions in the system. However, in 2003, the Post Office accused him of failing to account for £1,200, which led to the termination of his contract. Bates and his partner, Suzanne Sercombe, were forced to surrender their Post Office counter, resulting in a massive loss of investment worth approximately £60,000.
After losing his contract, Bates became more vocal about his concerns with the Horizon system and its impact on sub-postmasters and mistresses. He established a website to bring the issue to light, and through his efforts, he connected with others who had suffered similar problems.
Bates, along with five other lead claimants, filed a Group Litigation Order against the Post Office in 2018. In 2019, the judge presiding over the case confirmed that the Horizon system contained significant "bugs, errors, and defects". As a result, the Post Office agreed to settle with all 555 claimants involved in the case.
Bates and other former sub-postmasters appeared before the Commons' Business and Trade Committee on Tuesday. He told MPs financial redress for those affected was "absolutely bogged down in red tape" and that people were "dying" waiting for payments.