More

    Post Office inquiry: Paula Vennells breaks down during questioning

    Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells arrives to testify at the Post Office inquiry on May 22, 2024 in London, England. Paula Vennells worked as the Post Office chief executive during the key Horizon operating years from 2012 - 2019. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

    Former chief executive officer of Post Office Paula Vennells broke down in tears after admitting to the ongoing Horizon scandal inquiry that she “made mistakes”.

    Vennells is being questioned publicly for the first time in nearly a decade over the faulty software system, which led to more than 900 sub-postmasters being wrongfully prosecuted.

    During the ongoing inquiry that is expected to last for three days, Vennells broke down multiple times- the first time after she was asked why she had incorrectly told MPs that the Post Office had been successful in court for every case which relied on Horizon.

    She later sobbed while being asked about her responses to the news that sub-postmaster Martin Griffiths had walked in front of a bus while under investigation over a £100,000 alleged shortfall. On a third occasion she was asked about an email which highlighted concerns over eight sub-postmaster cases.

    She said, “I fully accept now that the Post Office…” trailing off as she began to weep. “The Post Office knew that and I completely accepted. Personally I didn’t know that and I’m incredibly sorry that it happened to those people and to so many others.”

    This came after she was mobbed by journalists and photographers as she arrived at the inquiry. The 65-year-old has been accused of a cover-up by subpostmasters, with campaigner and former subpostmistress Jo Hamilton calling on her to tell the truth.

    The Horizon IT Inquiry also heard that Vennells received direct correspondence from subpostmasters having issues with the computer system from 2012.

    Vennells sent an email after receiving word from subpostmaster Pervez Nakvi about Horizon issues in February 2012, in which the former Post Office chief executive said, “It is very frustrating to receive mails like this. Pervez is right to raise it.

    “It is my understanding that Horizon is reliable…but if trusted individuals like Pervez are now not feeling that is the case are we monitoring the right metrics?”

    Vennells today also denied trying to “counter the narrative” that former subpostmaster Martin Griffiths committed suicide because the Post Office ruined his life.

    Vennells said, “No. What I was trying to do, quite simply, was to get the wider picture and to understand particularly the very difficult challenges that Mr Bates had levelled at some Post Office colleagues.”

    Vennells also insisted that she did not understand that the Post Office carried out its own prosecutions until 2012, despite being the high profile case of Seema Misra and “collectively hundreds of prosecutions”.

    Vennells spent 12 years in the organisation – first joining as group network director before moving on to the position of managing director and finally the chief executive in 2012. 

    Furthermore, the inquiry’s lawyer Jason Beer KC asked her how sub-postmasters were being routinely held liable for shortfalls, even where they were saying there must be problems with their computer system.

    Vennells said that her understanding of the contract with branch managers at the time was that any shortfalls must be “made good”, to which Beer pointed out the contract did not explicitly say that.

    Latest

    FBC UK extends Crunch Creams range with two new flavours

    Fox’s Burton’s Companies (FBC UK) is adding two new...

    Rustlers turns up the volume for the next instalment of ‘Boost Your Burger’ campaign

    Retailers can give their shoppers hundreds of chances to...

    Hundreds of prizes up for grabs with Whaoo! Crêpes on-pack promotion!

    Whaoo! filled crêpes, from French bakery experts Norac Foods...

    FBC UK partners with Ferrara Candy to import Nerds

    Fox’s Burton’s Companies UK (FBC UK), Britain’s second biggest...

    Don't miss

    FBC UK extends Crunch Creams range with two new flavours

    Fox’s Burton’s Companies (FBC UK) is adding two new...

    Rustlers turns up the volume for the next instalment of ‘Boost Your Burger’ campaign

    Retailers can give their shoppers hundreds of chances to...

    Hundreds of prizes up for grabs with Whaoo! Crêpes on-pack promotion!

    Whaoo! filled crêpes, from French bakery experts Norac Foods...

    FBC UK partners with Ferrara Candy to import Nerds

    Fox’s Burton’s Companies UK (FBC UK), Britain’s second biggest...

    Gravesend Premier store stripped of alcohol licence

    A Premier store in Kent has been stripped of...

    Gravesend Premier store stripped of alcohol licence

    A Premier store in Kent has been stripped of its licence to sell alcohol after repeatedly selling booze to local street drinkers on credit...

    Dominic Hall elected president of SPAR International  

    Dominic Hall, joint managing director of James Hall & Co Ltd, has been elected president of SPAR International.  The announcement of the inaugural election of...

    New study reveals consumer trends ahead of Paris Olympics

    More than half of high-income households across the top six European grocery markets are expected to catch Paris Olympics at home, a recent report...