Horizon scandal

Ex-Post Office chief Vennells handing back CBE

Paula Vennells: was at helm of PO

Paula Vennells, the former CEO of the Post Office at the height of the Horizon computer scandal, will hand back her CBE with immediate effect.

It comes after a petition calling for her to voluntarily surrender the honour reached more than a million signatures on Monday.

Earlier, the former cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi – who made an appearance playing himself in the recent ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office – called for a “simple bill to quash” the hundreds of wrongful convictions that still exist against former sub-postmasters and postmistresses.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk responded by saying the suggestion is receiving “active consideration” and he expects to be able to be able to make more announcements shortly.

Ms Vennells, former Anglican priest, worked for beauty brand L’Oréal and hospitality business Whitbread before moving to the Post Office in 2007 as a group network director.

She became managing director in 2010 before being promoted to CEO two years later.

She stepped down in February 2019 amid growing anger over the Horizon scandal. She was appointed a CBE in the same year. During her tenure, the company repeatedly denied there were problems with its system.

Ms Vennells took over as chair of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in April of the same year, but later stepped down when a group of post office operators won a high court case in which their convictions were ruled wrongful and Horizon to be at fault – their ruling was upheld on appeal in 2021.

Two retired IT specialists from the Japanese firm Fujitsu are at the heart of a police investigation into the scandal.

Last week it was revealed that detectives from the Metropolitan police are looking at “potential fraud offences” committed in the handling of the scandal around the Horizon IT system.

Between 1999 and 2015, at least 700 postmasters were prosecuted over allegations of fraud, theft and false accounting based on evidence from the faulty computer system. Hundreds were bankrupted or jailed and at least four people took their own lives.

Postmasters claimed that tens of millions of pounds wrongly clawed back went into Post Office profits.

The government is considering legal action to recoup the millions paid to victims in compensation.

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