Former Post Office boss to hand back CBE over Horizon scandal

More than 700 sub-postmasters having received criminal convictions for allegations such as theft and false accounting.

A former Post Office boss has said she will hand back her CBE with immediate effect amid the fallout of the Horizon IT scandal which led to the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of sub-postmasters.

A petition calling for former Paula Vennells to lose her CBE attracted more than one million signatures.

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

Ms Vennells has previously said she is “truly sorry” for the “suffering” caused to sub-postmasters wrongly convicted of offences.

Both the Scottish and UK governments are to respond to calls to pardon the sub-postmasters after what is thought to be the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history.

More than 700 subpostmasters received criminal convictions for allegations such as theft and false accounting after the Post Office introduced the faulty Horizon software.

Many victims were pursued through the courts, had to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds and went bankrupt after being wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting.

Mr Bates vs the Post Office

In the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Labour MSP Foysol Choudhury will ask the Scottish Government what action it can take to ensure that all people who were potentially wrongfully convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal are supported in coming forward if they wish for their conviction to be overturned.

The UK Government is also expected to respond later on Tuesday afternoon.

MPs have called for Fujitsu, the firm behind the faulty Horizon accounting software that made it look as if money was missing from shops, to pay for compensating wronged Post Office staff.

Reports suggest that 50 new potential victims have approached lawyers since drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office was broadcast on STV.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday that he would “strongly support” the Honours Forfeiture Committee if it decided to look at revoking Ms Vennells’ CBE in the wake of the scandal.

Watch
Scots postmaster put £70,000 of own money into Horizon system amid scandal

UK justice secretary Alex Chalk was holding crunch talks with judges on Tuesday on expediting clearing the names of hundreds of subpostmasters having met with Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake on Monday.

Mr Hollinrake last month said calls to strip Ms Vennells of the honour should be considered.

The Prime Minister, who visited Accrington in Lancashire on Monday, sought to defend the Government’s response but said he wanted to speed up the compensation process for victims.

“People should know that we are on it and we want to make this right, that money has been set aside,” he said.

“We will do everything we can to make this right for the people affected. It is simply wrong what happened. They shouldn’t have been treated like this.”

Sir Keir Starmer has called for prosecution powers to be stripped from the Post Office and previous convictions looked at again.

The Labour leader said: “I think that the prosecution should be taken out of the hands of the Post Office and given to the Crown Prosecution Service.

“I used to run the Crown Prosecution Service, we’ve prosecuted for other departments, we can do it here – that should be done straight away.

“And these convictions, the remaining convictions, need to be looked at en masse.”

Scotland Yard said on Friday that officers are “investigating potential fraud offences arising out of these prosecutions”, for example “monies recovered from subpostmasters as a result of prosecutions or civil actions”.

The Metropolitan Police had already been looking into potential offences of perjury and perverting the course of justice in relation to investigations and prosecutions carried out by the Post Office.

Mr Bates vs The Post Office is available to watch on STV Player

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