Post Office CEO Paula Vennells ‘didn’t believe there were miscarriages of justice,’ inquiry told

During her time as Post Office CEO, Paula Vennells never stopped believing there were no miscarriages of justice, despite one of the biggest scandals in UK legal history unfolding under her watch, the public inquiry has been told.

In the latest hearing in the Post Office scandal inquiry, a colleague of Vennells in the senior leadership team said the former chief executive never accepted that miscarriages of justice took place when subpostmasters were prosecuted based on data from the Horizon IT system.

Alisdair Cameron, currently Post Office chief financial officer, was interim CEO for a short period when Vennells left the organisation in 2019, and was quizzed on a document he wrote in 2020 regarding what went wrong at the Post Office.

“Paula did not believe there had been a miscarriage and could not have got there emotionally,” Cameron wrote in the document titled, What went wrong?

Asked by inquiry barrister Jason Beer KC what he based this view on, Cameron said: “Everything she sort of said at the time. She had been clear in her conviction from when I joined that nothing had gone wrong. This was stated in my very first board meeting and she never in my observations deviated from that.”

He agreed that she “had been unwavering in her conviction that there were no miscarriages of justice”. Cameron said this was the case all the time he worked with her at the Post Office.

The inquiry also revealed a letter Cameron sent to Vennells in late 2018, when it became known she was leaving the Post Office. The handwritten note reveals he had a different opinion of Vennells then – this was before the High Court case which revealed damning details of the Post Office’s behaviour before the Horizon errors and miscarriages of justice were exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009.

In the letter he gave gushing praise to Vennells and thanked her for the opportunity she had given to him. Asked by Beer why he changed sentiments compared to the document in 2020, he said the judgements in the High Court came out, revealing how the Post Office had treated subpostmasters and caused miscarriages of justice: “In this letter I didn’t know that any of that had happened.”

Next week on 22 May sees Vennells begin a three-day grilling at the statutory inquiry into the scandal.

While the Horizon system and its problems began years before Vennells joined the Post Office and subsequently became chief executive, and there are several individuals who have become synonymous with the scandal – there are none more so than the former CEO, especially since the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office, which did so much to raise public awareness.

She earned millions of pounds working for the Post Office and was paid over £400,000 when she left despite the organisation being involved in what would become the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history under her leadership. That same year she was awarded a CBE, which was stripped from her earlier this year.

The Post Office Horizon scandal was first exposed by Computer Weekly in 2009, revealing the stories of seven subpostmasters and the problems they suffered due to accounting software (see below for timeline of Computer Weekly articles about the scandal, since 2009).

Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal

Also watch: ITV’s documentary – Mr Bates vs The Post Office: The real story


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