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Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells stripped of CBE

  • Vennells’ CBE formally revoked
  • Post Office scandal highlighted
  • Sub-postmasters’ convictions quashed

In 2019, Ms Vennells was bestowed with the honour, but it was met with considerable censure in the wake of the Post Office scandal.

Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells has had her CBE formally revoked by the King on the grounds that she “tarnished the reputation of the honours system.”

In 2019, Ms Vennells was bestowed with the honour, but it was met with considerable censure in the wake of the Post Office scandal.

She presided over the organisation during which it consistently denied any issue with its Horizon IT software system, and she had previously stated that she would relinquish the position a month ago.

The announcement of the action was made public on the Cabinet Office website, which also disclosed that the MBE of grime artist Wiley (actual name Richard Cowie) had been revoked for “bringing disrepute to the honours system.”

He declared in 2020 that he would renounce his honour after making antisemitic remarks on social media, including comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan and “cowards and snakes” to describe Jews.

Additionally, he has been the subject of a police wanted appeal in the past on accusations of burglary and assault by beating.

Scandal Exposed, Convictions Questioned

An actor’s portrayal of Ms Vennells in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office earlier this year brought the scandal to the attention of a wider audience.

Allegations of theft and false accounting ruined the reputations of over 700 sub-postmasters and mistresses; many were left bankrupt or incarcerated as a direct consequence of the Horizon computer system.

From 1999 to 2015, a considerable number of branch administrators were convicted; however, despite years of advocacy, only a minority of these convictions were overturned.

Since then, the government has made a public commitment to exonerate individuals who were erroneously convicted.

With hearings continuing, a statutory public inquiry into what has been termed the “worst miscarriage of justice in recent British legal history” commenced in 2022.

Having served as the Post Office’s chief executive from 2012 to 2019, Ms Vennells was awarded this distinction “for services to the Post Office and to charity” upon her departure.

She joined the organisation in 2007 in the capacity of group director, following a professional background in business and ordination as a deacon of the Church of England.

She acquiesced to pressure upon assuming the role of CEO to initiate an inquiry into purported problems pertaining to the Post Office’s IT system, which had been operational since 1999.

Justice Served, Reputations Tarnished

A report commissioned privately concluded that there were no significant accounting or IT problems.

However, by 2017, a cohort of Post Office personnel had petitioned the High Court, and Ms Vennells faced mounting censure.

As of December 2019, the case reached its conclusion with Mr Justice Fraser rendering a decision that quashed the convictions of the sub-postmasters and attributed the scandal to the Horizon system.

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Mr Fraser termed the Post Office’s testimony “institutional obstinacy” in the case.

In the aftermath of the decision, Ms Vennells expressed sincere remorse for the hardships endured by the 39 subpostmasters due to the vacated convictions.

Conservative peer Lord Arbuthnot, who advocated for the sub-postmasters’ cause, remarked, “During her tenure as CEO, Paula Vennells was notorious for her readiness to heed abhorrent counsel from members of her legal and management teams.

“This had far-reaching repercussions for the Post Office and was catastrophic for the sub-postmasters.” “However, it appears that she has suffered no repercussions.”

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