DESPITE being someone who is, by nature, an optimist, forward-thinking and open to change, I have recently begun to think that the whole world is out to get me.

Watching Mr Bates vs the Post Office illustrates more than ever just what small businesses have to endure. I genuinely feel a heartfelt sadness for those involved, and for a country like the UK to award such power and authority to an organisation like the Post Office to prosecute people without the right to appeal just beggars belief. It seems to us ‘little people’ that lawyers aided and abetted by judges rubber-stamp any decision in favour of public bodies irrespective of the incredulity of the charges, which only goes to reinforce my view that the whole system is corrupt and unfair. I for one would replace the lot with volunteers taken from the business world.

For the benefit of younger readers I would like to illustrate an example of my own experience with this very judicial system. This is in no way intended to be political and will not involve names but I will recall the events honestly and without prejudice to try to show what an individual is up against should you believe you are a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

In my case I believed I was being ‘set up’ by a regulator as I’d been served a notice which was constantly being altered. Because of the alterations it was impossible for me to comply and so, feeling aggrieved, I eventually decided to take the case to a tribunal. The procedure at this point is quite straight forward – I provide my evidence, as does the regulator. A date and time are agreed and documents are exchanged. Simples! Or so you would think. I supplied my evidence in complete honesty and openness as I was required to do, but when I received the regulator’s I couldn’t believe my eyes. It seemed to me a complete work of fiction: altered dates, docked photographs and all seemingly designed to create a Frankenstein-like image of my business, done in black and white to make the images look dark and grimy. It really was unbelievable.


I can completely relate to Mr Bates in his quest against the Post Office. In the TV drama it is alleged that postmasters and mistresses received early morning threats and intimidation, which is exactly what happened to me. I was threatened with bankruptcy, suffered endless visits and over a two-year period received seven adjournments, apparently so they could rewrite their evidence. Having done this, seemingly at the behest of a judge, the case then went to court and after it began regulators then presented yet another file of ‘evidence’ of which I had no prior knowledge.

The fact that they were able to make such amendments to me proves they were being economical with the truth. If you or I (the little people) had changed the evidence even once let alone seven times then we’d receive a prison sentence. But, just as I was about to give up on the British legal system, something happened to almost restore my faith.

Over the last few years, a neighbour has been waging war on the mill. Obstacles have been placed on the road adjoining the mill to obstruct wagons, CCTV cameras have appeared to watch our every move and I’ve witnessed rifle fire too close for comfort.

Footage from the cameras was then sent to various council departments alleging rule-breaking on my part as well as noise pollution regarding a chainsaw, even though he uses one on a regular basis. For three years I haven’t retaliated or reacted to any of his provocation which, in a strange way, seems to embolden him further.

When I returned after a short Christmas break I noticed the mirrors had been shot off the delivery wagon. He’s also complained about early morning deliveries which have been approved by the parish council as the wagons are long gone by the time of the school runs. It’s also a single-track road and the wagons don’t pass any houses before entering the yard, so they really don’t constitute any kind of risk.

I was quite shocked by the incident with the wagon mirrors as the rifle which had been used must have been fairly powerful. The mirrors were shattered but the 6 mm bolts securing them to the doors were also broken. I decided to inform the police but was reprimanded by them for using 999 instead of 101 (even though 101 was the number I dialled). The slogan on the side of the police car reads ‘proud to protect’, which left me somewhat puzzled as I regarded the use of a powerful firearm as a serious offence. The only thing I’ve done to my neighbour in all this time is ignore him, while he’s run a campaign against me and most of the people in the neighbourhood.

Watching the Mr Bates series has exposed what little protection we have when large public organisations decide to attack us. At times it feels as though the entire public sector has it in for the private sector. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! They just drive roughshod over everything and it seems like the laws of the land don’t apply.

My business involves cutting up trees and converting them into products to make sheds, fences, man caves and the like. I don’t steal from anyone, the mill buildings are acoustically designed to reduce noise and we don’t use chippers. All you are likely to hear if you pass the mill is a dull hum and maybe a reversing beacon. I really believe we make every effort to make life in the village as safe and quiet as possible and can only conclude that his ongoing feud is as a result of me ending our friendship. This leaves me with an interesting dilemma. Do I have to spend the rest of my working life being attacked and sabotaged? You can just imagine my apprehension recently when a police car pulled up at the yard. What on earth was I supposed to have done now?

Meanwhile, in the mill everything is currently frozen, so we’ve decided to take the opportunity to give the main saw a good clean and overhaul and replace a few parts.

We are installing a new hydraulic control which is much simpler than the old one and involves about 75-per-cent less wiring. Hydraulic pipes are being replaced and re-routed. Instead of pipes and wiring passing under the saw, where they are difficult to access and prone to being damaged, they are now routed around the wall, where they are easy to access and maintain. We are also installing new guards, some laser lights and a couple of cameras to help align the logs.

All in all it’s been a pretty tough week working on heavy, freezing-cold machinery, and even the retired woodworker who’s been helping me commented on the weight of everything. At the end of the week we noticed our shoulders and hips were aching. However, it’s a job well done. The saw looks great and any future maintenance should be a lot easier, with the added benefit that the new system is now 12 v instead of 240 v. Having experienced several ‘belts’ from the old system, I was just in the middle of sorting out a few teething issues when the police car pulled into the yard.

Before I go into all that, I have to say that the saw doesn’t just look great – it looks fantastic. With its new guards and wiring we’ve managed to make an old machine look and work like a modern one, but without modern electronics. I’ve even managed to get rid of an annoying knock coming from one of the side edgers. For at least two years I’ve tried to identify the origin of the noise. After pulling the whole thing to bits I discovered a finger drive with a rubber damper had a finger which hadn’t been dressed off after casting. A small lump was bashing off the side of the drive coupling and a simple fix with an angle grinder solved the problem, eliminating the continuous ‘dud, dud, dud’.

As for the police, one of them (a police community support officer) was clutching a pile of CCTV pictures which I requested to view. Surely one is allowed to see what one is accused of? After viewing the pictures (man loading logs, man loading logs into pickup, man driving forklift with palettes, man driving motorbike along road and putting out tongue and playing up to camera) I realised that covert footage is being taken on hidden cameras pointing directly into my premises and not one bit of his property was showing.

Forestry Journal: The success of Mr Bates vs the Post Office has reinvigorated the fight for justice for postmasters The success of Mr Bates vs the Post Office has reinvigorated the fight for justice for postmasters (Image: ITV)

I was really quite angry, not least because I just wanted to get on with my work and not have to waste time with this crap. After checking that the forklift was taxed and insured – which it was – the PCSO then informed me he’d spoken to the speciality highways officer, who was satisfied I was doing nothing wrong. Furthermore, they were investigating my neighbour for improper use of CCTV, harassment and criminal damage to the highway. I was stunned, but recovered sufficiently to request they look into having his firearms removed. I was assured this was already in hand and they were liaising with the firearms division.

For the first time in ages I’d borne witness to a young policeman doing some old-fashioned community police work and attempting to find out the facts and who was truly at fault. Thank goodness I never retaliated.

I still maintain that judges are only there for the public sector and when I got trapped in a corner I had no one to turn to. In the words of Mr Bates: “We’re just the little people.” I’m just a wood cutter and shouldn’t have to dodge bullets to go to work. But proper old-fashioned policing looks to have saved the day!