UK Post Office – heads roll after convictions quashed

The former UK Post Office CEO has resigned from her current directorships after the organisation apologised for the false convictions and sackings due to the Horizon accounting scandal – the worst miscarriage of justice in UK legal history.

Paula Vennells, who was the Post Office CEO between 2012 and 2019 when the Horizon miscalculations were at their worst, has resigned from grocery chain Morrisons’ board and her directorship at Dunelm Mill.

One of Vennells’ boardroom colleagues commented, ”She has been a diligent and effective director, but there was no way for her to stay on after the ruling – and It’s hard to see how she will ever be able to work again.”

Vennells was awarded a CBE when she retired from the Post Office in 2019. Unions are arguing this honour should be stripped from her.

The news comes as 39 sub-postmasters had their convictions quashed on Friday in an uncontested ruling by the Court of Appeal.

Post Office Chairman Tim Parker said: “The Post Office is extremely sorry for the impact on the lives of these postmasters and their families that was caused by historical failures.

“Post Office stopped prosecutions soon after its separation from Royal Mail a decade ago and has throughout this appeals process supported the overturning of the vast majority of convictions.

“We are contacting other postmasters and Post Office workers with criminal convictions from past private Post Office prosecutions that may be affected, to assist them to appeal should they wish. Post Office continues to reform its operations and culture to ensure such events can never happen again.

“The full ruling by the Court of Appeal judges published today is detailed, therefore Post Office will assess the Judgment carefully to understand what further action may be required.”

Post Office Chief Executive, Nick Read said: “I am in no doubt about the human cost of the Post Office’s past failures and the deep pain that has been caused to people affected.

“Many of those postmasters involved have been fighting for justice for a considerable length of time and sadly there are some who are not here to see the outcome today and whose families have taken forward appeals in their memory. I am very moved by their courage.

“The quashing of historical convictions is a vital milestone in fully and properly addressing the past as I work to put right these wrongs as swiftly as possible and there must be compensation that reflects what has happened.

“In addition, since arriving at the Post Office 18 months ago, my focus has been on resetting the culture at the Post Office and forging a substantive partnership with our postmasters. We are determined that they must come first in everything we do because without them there is no Post Office. We must transform the Post Office so that it can continue to provide essential services in local communities across the UK.”

The National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) has said it welcomed Friday’s verdict. The organisation stated:

“Last month we heard shocking revelations – including that Post Office Ltd (PO) may have destroyed evidence and that people within PO may have known Horizon was not reliable yet continued to prosecute.

Today’s verdict may lead to claims against PO for malicious prosecution and for compensation. The NFSP believes that every victim of the Horizon scandal should be appropriately compensated. As the shareholder of PO, Government needs to step up and fund any such compensation.

Further, any information on what PO and Fujitsu provided to Government about the reliability of Horizon, should be released as it is in the public interest.

The NFSP challenged PO many times on the reliability of Horizon and was always told that the system was reliable. Clearly it was not the case that Horizon was reliable and the signs are that many within PO knew that.

The NFSP should have done more under its previous leadership to challenge PO privately and in public and to prevent people from falling victim to this extended miscarriage of justice. We can’t change the decisions of the past, but the NFSP is committed to ensuring that nothing like the Horizon scandal ever happens again.”

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