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Real-life Mr Bates and partner Suzanne ‘disheartened’ by PM’s response to Post Office scandal

on This Morning the real-life former sub-postmaster Alan Bates, and his partner Suzanne Sercombe

Today, on This Morning the real-life former sub-postmaster Alan Bates, and his partner Suzanne Sercombe, discussed the latest on the Post Office Horizon scandal - including the Prime Minister’s call for justice and why Paula Venell’s should be stripped of her CBE. 


Hosts Josie Gibson and Craig Doyle, also revealed that Richard Branson has offered the couple a well-deserving break on Necker Island as thanks for their relentless campaigning and in an exclusive message, told them: “I can’t think of anyone that deserves a break more.” 



Speaking live from their home in Conwy, Wales, Suzanne explained that there have been some ‘very, very difficult’ days over the last twenty years. 


Discussing Rishi Sunak’s comments on the scandal yesterday, Alan said: “Unfortunately I didn’t hear them, I only heard them second hand, but he really needs to ensure things happen now and they happen at real speed - not just at pace, which he has commented on recently. 


“There’s no reason these things can’t be sorted quickly if enough pressure is brought to bear and it’s the compensation of the original people that fought the court case that needs resolving now. It’s been going on for almost 20 years for a number of these people and they’ve got to be able to get on with their lives.”  



Suzanne agreed: “I’m very disheartened personally that [Rishi Sunak] seems to be talking about it as something that’s just from the past, the carryover, the fallout is horrendous and it’s been going on for years.” 


On paying out the compensation still owed to hundreds of victims, Alan went on to say: “What’s the right thing to do? Just get on with it, stop holding it up, get it done. Stop holding it up with bureaucracy and just get it done. They know what needs to happen, let's see if they can actually do it.”  


With regards to overturning any criminal convictions, he continued: “I think that’s something that’s going to be looked at now, I think the government are discussing today what can be done about that and I’ll be interested to hear what comes out of it.” 



Adding: “The others, the compensation, there’s no reason why that needs to be held up anymore, they can get on with that and as far as Paula Vennells CBE goes, well we had one million people who have signed up to the petition [to strip her of her CBE] in just a matter of days and I think the question has got to be asked, who actually put her up for that CBE in the first instance?” 


Alan revealed why he had turned down being awarded an OBE, saying: “It felt a bit of a slap in the face whilst Paula Vennells had her CBE for services to Post Office. I couldn’t justify taking that, it would have been a slap in the face to the victims in all of this.” 


His partner Suzanne, who has stood by him throughout, said: “It wouldn’t have made any difference to our lives, we would have still dragged on, hanging about, waiting for financial redress. We were still leading a very limited lifestyle.” 



Alan also opened up on the reaction to the ITV four-part drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office, and the public reaction: “We’re really pleased with it. It has been going as you say for over 20 years and it has from time to time been picked up in the media but all of a sudden, the drama has made a huge, huge difference.” 


He continued: “The drama does such a good job of exposing the suffering that people have been through. I’m not surprised the whole nation has been moved by it.” 


Discussing the fact that all postmasters are vetted by the Post Office before being appointed and the potential ‘red flag’ that so many were then accused of theft and fraud, Alan said: “It comes down to the competence of management really and their priority has always been to protect the brand at whatever cost and if it’s at the cost of people going to prison, it seems they’re more than happy to put up with it. It’s not just the 700, 700 have gone from convictions. We, the bulk of us that took the court case - the 500 or so - are totally separate, as are the 2500 who are in the Horizon shortfall scheme, so there’s a lot of people that have been affected.”  



Suzanne opened up on the impact of the last twenty years, explaining: “There seemed to be spurts where we were making progress and we would think, ‘We can build upon that’, certain people that we were talking to would see sense and they would help to drive it forward but that was never necessarily so and we would take dives. 


“Alan would plough on in the background, not able to sort of announce what he was doing but Alan is somebody that has sort of always has a ‘plan B’, and all the letters of the alphabet as well, so while I was supporting him and seeing the progress that he was making, I couldn’t really reassure anybody what was happening. That was quite hard on me as well.”  



Earlier in the interview, she told Craig and Josie: “Alan and I are jointly victims of this abuse by Post Office and I have to say, it reminds me that postmasters have families and all of their families have been severely affected as well. It’s very important that they should be considered too, lives have been changed, not just the sub postmasters but their entire families.”  


Asked if Alan still wears a dressing gown to work in, as depicted in the series, Suzanne joked: “He’s actually got a new dressing gown and I’m so pleased!” 

Alan also commented that he’s spent many hours in his office chair and that it is "well worn out" as Suzanne agreed: “It’s very grungy.”  



Closing the interview, Josie explained that This Morning had been in touch with Richard Branson - following an interview with the Sunday Times in which Mr Bates joked, “If Richard Branson is reading this, I’d love a holiday”.


She exclusively revealed to the couple that Richard had personally responded with the following: “Dear Alan, I did get a chance to to read your moving interview in The Times and we’d love to offer you and Suzanne a well earned holiday on Necker Island. I can’t think of anyone that deserves a break more. Hopefully see you there. Best, Richard.” 


A shocked Alan, sat next to Suzanne, shared his thanks: “Much appreciated Richard, much needed but much appreciated.” 



To see the show in full visit itv.com/watch/this-morning


This Morning airs weekdays from 10am on ITV1 & ITVX

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