Paula Vennells should lose CBE over Post Office IT scandal, MPs say

Now strip Post Office chief of her CBE: Former boss Paula Vennells should lose the honour over postmasters wrongly convicted in IT scandal, MPs say

  • Paula Vennells is accused of wrongly dragging hundreds of postmasters to court
  • Hundreds of postmasters blamed for losses were bankrupted, sacked or jailed  
  • MPs have demanded that the former Post Office boss should be stripped of CBE
  • The mother-of-two has kept the £4.5million she earnt during Post Office tenure 

The former Post Office boss accused of wrongly dragging hundreds of postmasters to court should be stripped of her CBE, MPs demanded yesterday.

Paula Vennells – who was chief executive until last year – is said to have known that money could appear to be missing from branch accounts because of errors in the Horizon computer system.

Over two decades, hundreds of postmasters blamed for the losses were bankrupted, sacked or jailed.

Paula Vennells – who was chief executive until last year – is said to have known that money could appear to be missing from branch accounts because of errors in the Horizon computer system

Mrs Vennells, 61, made the decision to pursue postmasters in court during a compensation battle that cost the taxpayer an estimated £90million.

It is now believed that as many as 2,750 former employees may have been wrongly accused of taking money from the till. 

The Daily Mail has repeatedly highlighted the Horizon scandal and campaigned to save village post offices.

In the Commons yesterday, MP Dr Julian Lewis said: ‘Those present or former Post Office officials who perpetrated this disaster and perpetuated the agony of the victims must be punished, not promoted.

‘They must be shamed, rather than rewarded with honours as I believe happened in at least one prominent instance.’

In the Commons yesterday, MP Dr Julian Lewis said: ‘Those present or former Post Office officials who perpetrated this disaster and perpetuated the agony of the victims must be punished, not promoted

Postal affairs minister Paul Scully said: ‘The honours committee, or any future employers, need to look at the background of any person involved in this.’

Mrs Vennells, an ordained priest, joined the Post Office in 2007 and was promoted to chief executive in 2012.

After leaving, she landed roles as an adviser to the Cabinet Office and chairman of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London. She was given the CBE last year for services to the Post Office and to charity.

The married mother-of-two has kept the £4.5million she earnt during her Post Office tenure, and now receives £140,000 a year advising supermarket chain Morrisons and homeware retailer Dunelm.

In June, she was forced to step back from the Church’s ethical investment advisory group due to the furore over the scandal.

In evidence to the Commons business committee she sought to shift the blame for the IT scandal, insisting she did not approve prosecutions of her staff and was misled by computer experts. 

She was accused of treating postmasters ‘with contempt and derision’. Last Friday 44 postmasters were told their convictions are set to be overturned in the Court of Appeal.

The historic victory in one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice came after the Post Office said it would not oppose their appeals.

It is now believed that as many as 2,750 former employees may have been wrongly accused of taking money from the till

The Post Office is reviewing 900 further prosecutions. MPs, responding to an Urgent Question in the Commons, yesterday lambasted the Government for failing to pay compensation to postmasters whose convictions have been overturned, forcing them into another court battle. 

Honours can be removed by the honours forfeiture committee, which is linked to the Cabinet Office, for a variety of reasons, including ‘any behaviour that is deemed to bring the honours system into disrepute’.

Recipients can also renounce their honour voluntarily.

In a statement, Mrs Vennells said: ‘It was and remains a source of great regret to me that these colleagues and their families were affected over so many years. I am truly sorry we were unable to find both a solution and a resolution outside of litigation and for the distress this caused.

‘I am currently engaging with the [Commons committee] inquiry and will do all I can to support efforts to get to the bottom of what has happened.’

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