Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells should hand back CBE over scandal, says Tory minister

Paula Vennells, who was chief executive of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, should give up the honour voluntarily over her role in the scandal, Kevin Hollinrake said

Archie Mitchell,Kate Devlin
Wednesday 03 January 2024 14:18 GMT
Real-life Mr Bates opens up on Post Office scandal depicted in ITV drama

The former boss of the Post Office should hand back her CBE over the scandal which saw postmasters wrongly jailed, a Tory minister has said.

Paula Vennells, who was chief executive of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, should give up the honour voluntarily, Kevin Hollinrake told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

The business minister, whose brief includes postal services, said: “Paula Vennells got a CBE for services to the Post Office.

“Ultimately you’ve got responsibility for what happened here, you’re the chief executive, if I was Paula Vennells I would seriously consider handing that back voluntarily at this point in time.”

Errors made by Horizon software, which was made by tech firm Fujitsu and used by the Post Office, led to the wrongful conviction of more than 700 people over false accounting and theft between 1999 and 2015.

Amid a grilling over the scandal, Mr Hollinrake said he “absolutely” supported criminal prosecutions for those responsible where there is evidence of criminality.

He added that an ongoing inquiry should determine “who is responsible” in the Post Office and Fujitsu and “wherever possible those people should be held to account”.

Retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams is chairing an inquiry into the Post Office scandal, considered the worst miscarriage of justice in recent British history.

The renewed focus on the scandal comes amid a new ITV drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office.

Alan Bates, played by Toby Jones, has spent two decades of his life fighting for justice after hundreds of fellow postmasters and postmistresses were accused of theft, fraud, and false accounting due to faulty computers.

In 1999, Horizon, a defective Fujitsu IT system, began incorrectly reporting cash shortfalls at branches across the country. The accusations tore people’s lives apart, with many losing their jobs and homes.

Several people took their own lives due to the stress.

To this day, not a single Post Office or Fujitsu employee has been held to account over the scandal, much less faced criminal investigation. Sixty of the victims have died before finding any justice at all.

Ms Vennells was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) “for services to the Post Office and to charity” in the 2019 new year honours list.

Previous calls for her to be stripped of the title include from the Communication Workers Union.

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