Ex-UK Post Office boss 'sorry' over convictions scandal

Ex-UK Post Office boss 'sorry' over convictions scandal

Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells is giving evidence in a scandal that was made into a TV drama.
Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells is giving evidence in a scandal that was made into a TV drama.. Photo: HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP
Source: AFP

The former boss of Britain's Post Office on Wednesday apologised to the hundreds of staff who were wrongly prosecuted because of faulty computer software, in one of the country's worst miscarriages of justice.

Giving evidence to a public inquiry into the scandal, ex-chief executive Paula Vennells read out a statement in which she said "how sorry I am for all that subpostmasters and their families and others have suffered as a result of all of the matters that the inquiry is looking into".

More than 700 subpostmasters running small local post offices received criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 after the faulty Horizon accounting software made it appear that money had gone missing from their branches.

Many ended up bankrupt and shunned by their communities. Some were jailed. At least four people took their own lives.

Read also

"No cash to dispense": Nigerian bank customers bemoan difficulty in withdrawing money

The High Court in London in 2019 ruled that it had been computer errors, not criminality, that had been behind the missing money.

Vennells, who many of the victims blame for their ordeal, said in January that she would hand back the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) honour given to her in 2018, as the public outcry mounted.

PAY ATTENTION: Сheck out news that is picked exactly for YOU ➡️ find the “Recommended for you” block on the home page and enjoy!

Being quizzed about her role in the scandal for the first time, Vennells told the inquiry on Wednesday that "there was information I wasn't given and others didn't receive as well.

"One of my reflections of all of this -- I was too trusting," she added.

"My deep sorrow in this is that I think that individuals, myself included, made mistakes, didn't see things, didn't hear things."

Read also

G7 push to use Russian assets for Ukraine 'vital and urgent': Yellen

Despite rumbling on for many years, it was not until a TV drama aired earlier this year that the scandal generated widespread public anger, and led the government to take action.

It unveiled legislation in March to exonerate those wrongly prosecuted and said it would also act to improve the compensation available to different groups of subpostmasters.

Around £179 million ($225 million) has already been spent compensating claimants through schemes and litigation, according to the government.

The public inquiry into the scandal led by retired high court judge Wyn Williams was established in September 2020, and its legal powers were beefed up in June 2021.

Source: AFP

Authors:
AFP avatar

AFP AFP text, photo, graphic, audio or video material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium. AFP news material may not be stored in whole or in part in a computer or otherwise except for personal and non-commercial use. AFP will not be held liable for any delays, inaccuracies, errors or omissions in any AFP news material or in transmission or delivery of all or any part thereof or for any damages whatsoever. As a newswire service, AFP does not obtain releases from subjects, individuals, groups or entities contained in its photographs, videos, graphics or quoted in its texts. Further, no clearance is obtained from the owners of any trademarks or copyrighted materials whose marks and materials are included in AFP material. Therefore you will be solely responsible for obtaining any and all necessary releases from whatever individuals and/or entities necessary for any uses of AFP material.

Online view pixel