The Telegraph 2024-02-01 08:01:11

Alan Bates rejects ‘derisory’ payout over Post Office scandal

Alan Bates has revealed he will reject a “cruel” and “derisory” Post Office Horizon scandal compensation offer from the Government.

The former sub-postmaster, whose story inspired the ITV drama Mr Bates vs. The Post Office, has fought a two-decade battle for justice after being forced to stop running his branch in 2003.

On Wednesday, the Government offered him only about a sixth of what he had requested in compensation. He told The Telegraph he would be turning the offer down.

The Government has been repeatedly criticised for its treatment of sub-postmasters caught up in the Horizon scandal – some of whom have never received any compensation despite their lives being ruined.

In 2022, ministers confirmed plans to compensate sub-postmasters who had won a High Court battle against the Post Office but had only received small sums through a settlement and promised they would deliver “full and fair compensation” to those affected.

After receiving his offer on Wednesday, Mr Bates told The Telegraph: “‘Full and fair’ might be His Majesty’s Government’s interpretation, but in reality the offer is derisory, offensive and after all this time, yes, cruel.”

Mr Bates is one of more than 4,000 people who have been told they will be eligible for compensation as a result of the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Errors in Fujitsu’s Horizon software caused shortfalls to be recorded which did not exist.

Overall, more than 900 sub-postmasters were prosecuted after they were blamed for the shortfalls and some even served time in prison as a result.

After winning a High Court case against the Post Office, sub-postmasters who had lost out were invited to submit a claim to the government compensation scheme.

Mr Bates told The Telegraph his lawyers engaged with forensic accountants to prepare his claim and that his offer was received at 4.59pm on Wednesday, 111 days after he had submitted his claim. He said he had been offered “around a sixth” of what he had claimed for.

He told The Telegraph: “I will absolutely be turning this offer for financial redress down. It is just a terrible way to treat human beings – and I have heard from several sub-postmasters who have received similarly derisory offers, while others are still waiting.

“Bearing in mind my solicitors engaged forensic accountants to prepare my claim in accordance with established legal principles, it now seems we have to spend hours and hours over weeks and months with government-appointed lawyers at who knows what cost, just to point out these legal principles to them. But to them it might just be a good earner.”

He added: “I have been in the queue along with all the others in the scheme, but if my case is an example of the way they are going to treat all the cases, we may as well start looking at a legal action again and let the judiciary decide.”

Mr Bates took over a shop with a Post Office counter in Llandudno, North Wales in 1998, and first became aware something was wrong with Horizon when a shortage of £6,000 appeared on his books.

In 2003, his contract was terminated and while Mr Bates’s careful record-keeping proved he was not at fault, the Post Office said £1,200 was still unaccounted for.

Mr Bates and his partner, Suzanne Sercombe, kept their shop but lost their Post Office counter and their investment of around £60,000.

After setting up a website, he met other sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses who had experienced similar problems. Along with 554 others, he took the Post Office to the High Court, where a judge ruled in 2019 that the Horizon system contained “bugs, errors and defects”.

The claimants were awarded £58 million in a settlement from the Post Office. However, once legal costs were deducted they received only £12 million – around £20,000 each on average.

The Government set up a compensation scheme for these postmasters called the Group Litigation Order (GLO). It opened last year and was set up to ensure the claimants involved in the legal action received extra money to reflect the gravity of their situations.

Interim payments have been paid out, while claimants await an offer for the final payment.

Previously, the GLO scheme had a deadline for payments to be made by Aug 7 this year; however, the Government brought in new legislation to scrap the deadline in an attempt to allow more claimants to come forward.

A separate scheme for those whose convictions were overturned offers a fast-tracked £600,000 settlement or the opportunity for claimants to enter negotiations if they feel they are entitled to more. Meanwhile, the Horizon Shortfall Scheme is in place for sub-postmasters who were not convicted or part of the GLO court action. Many affected sub-postmasters used their own money to attempt to balance their accounts when false shortfalls were reported.

No date for final report

A statutory inquiry into the scandal is aunder way and is set to finish this summer, with a date for chairman Sir Wyn Williams’ final report as yet unknown.

On Wednesday, Fujitsu confirmed it would wait until the end of the inquiry before deciding how much it would contribute to compensation.

A government spokesman said: “We continue to appreciate the work that Mr Bates has done to campaign for fair compensation after the miscarriage of justice suffered by so many in the Horizon IT scandal, something which we are committed to providing.

“If any applicant to the GLO scheme feels that they are owed more than is being offered, we are happy to discuss the evidence with their legal advisers. If we can’t agree, decisions will be made by an independent panel that includes legal and accountancy experts, who ensure fair redress based on the evidence.

“In most cases, we have agreed the amount of compensation for people from whom we have received claims, with 59 people making claims and 44 offers made, proving that the majority of claims are being decided quickly. We continue to encourage those 400 GLO members who haven’t made a claim to come forward.”

Nine people injured in suspected acid attack in London

Nine people, including two children and three police officers, have been injured after a suspected acid attack in London on Wednesday night.

A woman and her two young children were the suspected victims of the attack, as a man is believed to have thrown a corrosive substance over them on a road near Clapham Common.

The suspect remained at large on Thursday morning.

A witness reported that the mother screamed “my eyes” and “police” after she was attacked with the substance.

Police were called to the scene on Lessar Avenue at around 7.25pm on Wednesday alongside an ambulance service hazardous response team, and the woman and her children were taken to hospital.

Three other adults were also taken to hospital with injuries thought to have been suffered as they came to the aid of the woman and her children.

Firefighters later said they had used specialist equipment to detect the substance used in the attack.

The Metropolitan Police said three officers who responded to the incident were also injured.

Of those injured, five were taken to a major trauma centre, and three to a local hospital, the ambulance service said, while one person was discharged at the scene. 

The witness told The Sun that the mother, along with her children, had been in a car with a man. The pair got out of the vehicle and began fighting on the street.

The man then allegedly returned to the car and attempted to run the woman over. 

The witness said: “There was a little baby girl banging on the door on the dad’s side, the lady was crying, screaming “my eyes, police”.

“He opened the door, took out the baby and banged her against the ground twice”.

Another witness told the BBC that the mother cried “I can’t see, I can’t see” as he tried to help her. “It was quite horrific,” he added.

‘He slammed her to the ground twice’

A couple who live on the road told the BBC that they ran into the street after hearing a cry for help and the sound of a collision.

“We came outside and saw this guy and he took a girl out of the car and he slammed her to the ground twice,” a witness said.

“I chased him half way down the road, but I was in slippers so didn’t get very far.

“As I came back, that’s when I saw the woman who had been attacked with whatever substance it was so I ran inside to get some water and just sprayed her down with water.

Detective Superintendent Alexander Castle said on Wednesday night: “Officers are on scene following this horrific incident.

“While tests are ongoing to determine what the substance is, at this stage we believe it to be a corrosive substance,” he said.

“A man was seen fleeing the scene. We are drawing on resources from across the Met to apprehend this individual and work is ongoing to determine what has led to this awful incident.”

No arrest has been made and police said they will give an update on the conditions of the injured people as soon as they can.

A police helicopter has been deployed to assist with the manhunt and a nearby hotel, the Clapham South Belvedere, has also cordoned off.

Marina Ahmad, Labour’s London Assembly member for Lambeth & Southwark, posted on X: “There has been a traffic collision with a man assaulting occupants in a car and throwing acid. Victims include children.”

The London Ambulance service said it sent members of the hazardous area response team to the scene.

“We were called today (31 January) at 7.29pm to reports of an incident on Clapham Common South Side, SW4,” a spokesperson said.

“We sent a number of resources to the scene, including two incident response officers, three ambulance crews, and members of our hazardous area response team.

“We treated nine people, five of whom were taken to a major trauma centre. Three patients were taken to a local hospital and the other was discharged at the scene.”

Florence Eshalomi, MP for Vauxhall, wrote in a post on Twitter: 

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for Streatham, wrote: “Very concerned to hear reports of an acid attack on Lessar Avenue in Clapham earlier tonight around 7.25pm, which has resulted in multiple injuries.

She added: “I’ll share more updates when I receive them.

“In the meantime, please avoid the area if possible whilst our emergency services carry out their work.”

A spokesperson for London Fire Brigade said: ‘Firefighters were called to a chemical incident on Lessar Avenue in Clapham this evening.

“Working alongside emergency service partners, crews provided immediate emergency care to a woman and two children.

“Five further people were also treated at the scene. They were all taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews.

“Crews also used specialist equipment to detect a corrosive substance that is believed to have been used in the incident.

“The Brigade was called at 7.35pm and the incident was over for firefighters by 9.21pm. Two fire engines from Clapham and Battersea fire stations attended the scene.”

Members of the public who may have information or material are being urged to call 999 immediately ref CAD 7790/31 Jan.

Drinking straw DNA shows beautician is Lamborghini founder’s granddaughter, court hears

A beautician from Naples claims she is the secret granddaughter of the founder of Lamborghini sports cars and says she has the DNA – taken from a drinking straw – to prove it.

Flavia Borzone, 35, from Naples, instructed a private detective to retrieve a drinking straw from Elettra Lamborghini, who is a model, socialite and singer, in order to obtain her saliva and prove they are sisters.

Ms Borzone says she is the illegitimate daughter of 76-year-old Tonino Lamborghini, whose father Ferruccio created the luxury car in northern Italy in 1963.

The company is now owned by the Volkswagen Group through its subsidiary, Audi.

Ms Borzone’s claims emerged from a court case in Bologna on Monday.

Experts from the University of Ferrara said that the DNA sample proved a genetic match between Ms Borzone and Ms Lamborghini, showing they were sisters.

Lawyers for the beautician said the DNA link was “irrefutable”. The DNA material had been collected by a private detective from a straw that Ms Lamborghini had used when she drank an iced coffee, the court heard. One Italian newspaper called it “the straw of a thousand secrets”.

Ms Borzone says that she was born from a relationship between her mother, Rosalba Colosimo, and Mr Lamborghini, after they met at a bus stop in Milan in 1980.

Mr Lamborghini was allegedly driving by when he noticed the young woman waiting for a bus and stopped to offer her a lift. The two struck up a relationship and Ms Borzone was born in 1988, it is claimed.

“I don’t want to offend anyone, I just want to know whose daughter I am,” Ms Borzone told the court.

Convinced that she is the daughter of Mr Lamborghini, she went public with the claims on television programmes and gossip magazines.

Mr Lamborghini accused her, and her mother, of defamation and the case has now gone to court.

Ms Borzone says that in 2019 she drove from her home in Naples to the town of Funo, near Bologna in northern Italy, hoping to meet the man she claims is her father.

“She had had this niggle for a long time,” said her lawyer, Gian Maria Romanello. “She did not have the same physical features as her supposed father. When he and her mother argued, she would often hear her mother say: ‘She’s not even your daughter.’”

The beautician covertly recorded the conversation she had with Mr Lamborghini and it was presented in court, according to La Repubblica newspaper.

“In the conversation, Mr Lamborghini admitted to having had a relationship with Colossimo [Ms Borzone’s mother],” the lawyer told the court. “They met in 1980 in Milan. Rosalba was waiting for a bus, Tonino passed by in his car, he gave her a lift.”

Ms Borzone’s official first name is Clelia, which was a tribute to Mr Lamborghini’s mother, the court was told.

Ms Borzone was not pursuing the case for financial reasons, her mother said. “My daughter doesn’t want money, she just wants the truth,” Ms Colosimo said. “If it had been all about the money, I would have done all this when Flavia was two years old.”

Mr Lamborghini has denied having any biological link to Ms Borzone.

His lawyers said the DNA material was taken from the straw used by his daughter without her consent. It was therefore “unlawful” and should not be admitted as evidence.

Referring to the DNA test results, Sergio Culiersi, another lawyer for the beautician, said: “We brought to court the proof that she is not lying.”

He said a comparison between the DNA of Ms Borzone and Ms Lamborghini “proved 100 per cent that the women are sisters”.

He added: “For us it was important to show that Flavia Borzone did not want to offend Mr Lamborghini, she just wants to be recognised [as his daughter)]. She has lived for years without knowing who her father is.”

Ms Borzone’s legal team said Mr Lamborghini had refused to undergo a DNA test, hence the fact that they resorted to hiring four private detectives to obtain the drinking straw used by his daughter.

“Our client and Elettra Lamborghini are sisters,” the legal team told the court. “They are daughters of the same father. This should be enough to throw out the accusation of defamation because [Ms Borzone and her mother] have just told the truth.”

Mr Lamborghini is a businessman who runs the eponymous Tonino Lamborghini Ltd, a company that produces luxury goods and accessories inspired by the legendary car firm founded by his father. The company, which also has interests in hotels and resorts, is worth around €400 million, according to Italian media reports

The trial was adjourned until March.

Sturgeon denies ‘burning desire’ for independence influenced Covid decisions

Nicola Sturgeon was accused of letting a “burning desire” for independence drive her response to the pandemic as she appeared at the UK Covid Inquiry on Wednesday.

The former first minister repeatedly welled up as she gave evidence at the inquiry, sitting in Edinburgh, but was accused by a bereaved relative of crying “crocodile tears.”

Jamie Dawson KC, the counsel for the inquiry, put it to the former SNP leader that it was a “matter of instinct” for her to “seek division” within the UK, including announcing different lockdown decisions to those applied in England.

He asked her whether it was possible for her to take any decision without seeing it through the “prism of Scottish independence and your burning desire to achieve it”.

Ms Sturgeon rejected the claim, but minutes of a Scottish Cabinet meeting dated June 30 2020 showed SNP ministers “agreed that consideration be given to restarting work on independence and a referendum” using “the experience of the coronavirus crisis”.

She insisted this did not result in any action to restart a separation campaign and was merely a “comment”, but Lady Hallett, chairing the inquiry, intervened to note that the minutes stated this had been “agreed”.

Another email shown to the inquiry, dated July 2020, advised Ms Sturgeon and her ministers against imposing travel restrictions to Spain because “they will never approve EU membership for an independent Scotland as a result”.

The inquiry also heard accusations that Ms Sturgeon had pursued a doomed “zero Covid” strategy because she wanted to be “the person that drove Covid out of Scotland”. She insisted the relaxation of the lockdown rules was slower in Scotland than in England.

In a conclusion during which Ms Sturgeon fought back tears, Mr Dawson quoted the bereaved wife of a Covid victim as saying that “hubris does not stop a pandemic”. He said: “The story of Covid in Scotland is the story of the hubris of Nicola Sturgeon, is it not?”

Addressing the bereaved, the former first minister said she was “deeply sorry” and insisted she “did my best”.

But she admitted that she had destroyed all her WhatsApp messages from the pandemic, and had already started doing so when she promised in August 2021 that they would all be handed to the inquiry.

Aamer Anwar, the lead solicitor for the Scottish Covid Bereaved group, said: “My clients have asked me to consider asking for a criminal investigation into the actions of the former first minister and others. We will carefully consider our next steps once the evidence is completed today.”

Pamela Thomas, who lost her brother to Covid, told reporters outside the inquiry: “Crocodile tears aren’t washing with me. If there are any tools available to my solicitors or the inquiry with regards to any criminal activity that took place, I would like them to use them all.”

Royal Marine beats submariners to take charge of Navy’s global operations

A Royal Marine has beaten submariners to take charge of the Navy’s global operations for the first time.

Brig Rich Cantrill will take on the role later this year, in which he will oversee the protection of home waters, as well as Navy and Marine actions and activities worldwide.

The Telegraph understands that while several submariners applied for the role, Brig Cantrill, 49, who is currently Assistant Chief of Staff overseeing operations at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, north-west London, was considered the best candidate.

A defence source said the role of Commander Operations had changed in recent years, with the Russian submarine threats in the North Atlantic no longer the main focus. They cited the protection of shipping in the Red Sea and the UK having a permanent presence in the Pacific as being “just as relevant”, which made the job suitable for someone without previous experience as a submariner.

Brig Cantrill has held prominent posts across defence and government, notably as deputy of the Ministry of Defence’s counter-terrorism operations, a role in the Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 taskforce and serving as Chief of Staff of the UK’s Amphibious Forces as they countered pirates off the Horn of Africa in 2016.

He has been in the Royal Marines for almost 30 years, notably commanding 3 Commando Brigade after roles in Plymouth-based 42 Commando, first leading Lima Company on operations in Afghanistan before taking over the unit as Commanding Officer in 2014.

Brig Cantrill said he was “absolutely delighted” to have been given the position.

He said: “For me it means a chance to return to my own service after a fascinating time in the joint domain, where I have learned a great deal about modern multi-domain operations, whilst working daily with the current Commander Operations and his team.

“The delivery of Royal Navy operations, and the maritime contribution to joint operations, are fundamental to protecting the nation and helping it to prosper.”

Pictured: Tony Hall’s letter praising Bashir after Diana ‘interview of the decade’

Tony Hall praised Martin Bashir for “the interview of the decade, if not of our generation” in a newly-published note.

Bashir’s reporting forever changed the way the BBC reports on the monarchy, Lord Hall, then the head of news and current affairs at the BBC, wrote. He added that the journalist had conducted himself in “absolutely the appropriate fashion”.

The corporation has released more than 10,000 documents relating to Bashir’s infamous Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.

They include a copy of the handwritten note from Lord Hall to Bashir in November 1995.

Notes from an internal meeting attended by the BBC’s senior executives state: “Alan Yentob said that Martin Bashir’s presentation had been exemplary. Others agreed. He had the skill to gain the Princess’s confidence.”

Will Wyatt, the managing director of BBC Television at the time, described the interview as “an extraordinary coup… conducted just as one would have hoped”.

Russell Brand describes rape claims as ‘painful, hurtful attack’ in Tucker Carlson interview

Russell Brand has described rape allegations made against him as a “painful, hurtful attack” as he praised conspiracy theorists in an interview with Tucker Carlson.

Brand, 48, appeared in an interview with Carlson, the former Fox News host, in a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday night.

Mr Carlson was taken off air in April after Fox Corp settled a $787.5 million (£618.5 million) defamation lawsuit. The exact reason for his departure is not yet known.

Brand has been questioned by Scotland Yard detectives in relation to nine historic sex offence allegations. In September last year, he was accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse against several different women.

Police launched an investigation into Brand after receiving a complaint from a woman following a joint investigation by The Times, The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches. There have been no arrests, and Brand has denied any wrongdoing.

In the interview with Carlson, Brand doubled down on his denials of the allegations against him. He said: “Of course I deny any allegations… that have been advanced. I reject the allegations in the strongest possible terms.

“I am aware that I have put myself in an extremely vulnerable position by being very, very promiscuous. That is not the kind of conduct that I endorse and it is certainly not how I would live now.”

He said: “To be accused of what I consider to be the most appalling crimes is very very painful and very hurtful. But I am being shown that there is a cost and there are consequences for the rather foolish way I lived in the past.

“Though of course to reiterate I deny any allegations of the kind that have been advanced,” Brand added.

Brand claimed his 12-week-old son was undergoing heart surgery while the ITV documentary was aired and said realising the importance of family helped him through that difficult time. “I mention my son because throughout it I was able to maintain what is really important in life,” he said.

Brand praises conspiracy theorists

Brand then began talking about David Icke, a conspiracy theorist who claims he is the son of God and that reptiles run the world. Icke has been deplatformed for spreading misinformation.

His views were described by Brand as “marginal” and “difficult to corroborate”, before Brand praised him for being “ahead of the curve” in recognising existential global issues.

He said: “It terrifies me to contemplate that people like Alex Jones and in our country, David Icke, appear to have been ahead of the curve.”

Brand said it was “extraordinary” that Jones, an American conspiracy theorist, and Icke had been talking about “globalisation” and “authoritarianism” for three decades.

Icke has faced allegations of holocaust denial after publishing a book titled And the Truth Shall Set You Free in 1995, in which he claimed prominent Jewish families “helped finance Adolf Hitler”.

Brand and Icke have known each other for around 20 years.

Jones is well known for his denials concerning the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting which saw 20 children killed. He was also criticised for hosting guests such as Kanye West on his podcast InfoWars, where the rapper admitted he “liked Hitler”.