Petition for Post Office boss Paula Vennells to lose CBE over Horizon scandal receives one million signatures

Monday 8 January 2024

A petition calling for former Post Office boss Paula Vennells to lose her CBE over the Horizon scandal has attracted more than one million signatures.

Demands for the Honours Forfeiture Committee to remove her CBE have emerged again after ITV aired a new drama into the scandal, which has been described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history.

Ms Vennells oversaw the organisation while it routinely denied there were problems with its Horizon IT system.

More than 700 Post Office branch managers were given criminal convictions after faulty Fujitsu accounting software called Horizon made it appear as though money was missing from their shops.

Speaking to TalkToday, Tim Brentnall, a postmaster and victim of the Horizon scandal, described his experience being prosecuted for false accounting in 2009.

"A shortfall of £22,500 was found in my business, which the post office, or the auditors said to me I needed to pay back to avoid a theft charge. As soon as I paid that money back by raiding my savings and my parents savings, I was then prosecuted for false accounting.

"I was determined to plead not guilty to the charge. My barrister sat down me and explained that I'd be standing up in Crown Court, against the post office or the crown, and it would be very unlikely that I would win. If I pled not guilty, I would probably end up being found guilty and sent to prison.

"So, I ended up pleading guilty to false accounting to try and avoid a prison sentence. The threat of a custodial sentence was absolutely terrifying. It was almost like firefighting - just doing everything within your power to avoid to avoid that threat."

The petition, which is addressed to Sir Chris Wormald, the chair of the Forfeiture Committee, says: “Evidence has been produced that the Post Office engaged in a mass cover up which led to the wrongful prosecution of 550 Post Office Staff many of whom were subsequently jailed, bankrupted and in some cases, sadly took their own lives.

There has been public backlash to the scandal after ITV aired a drama starring Toby Jones about the scandal.

“Having been handed a CBE for services to the Post Office, and moved out into other senior positions in government and healthcare, it is only right that this award is now withdrawn through the process of forfeiture.”

It comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed a report that Justice Secretary Alex Chalk is considering ways of helping to clear the names of convicted subpostmasters caught up in the scandal.

Reports say Mr Chalk is set to meet with Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake on Monday to discuss how to help the convicted branch managers.

There has been fresh public backlash to the scandal after ITV aired a drama starring actor Toby Jones last week about the scandal.

Reports suggest since Mr Bates Vs The Post Office was broadcast, 50 new potential victims have approached lawyers.

The Post Office is wholly owned by the Government and a public inquiry into Horizon is ongoing.