Post Office Scandal Petition to remove Paula Vennells CBE hits one million

Post Office

Post Office Scandal Petition to remove Paula Vennells CBE hits one million

The simmering public outrage over the Post Office Horizon scandal reached a boiling point as the petition calling for Paula Vennells, CBE, the company’s chief executive, to step down crossed the one million signature mark.

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38 Degrees Petition

The Post Office scandal, a monumental miscarriage of justice that saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongfully convicted, is finally back in the spotlight – and this time, with renewed momentum for accountability and redress including an investigation announced by the Metropolitan Police over potential fraud offences arising from the prosecutions.

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The ITV “Mr Bates vs the Post Office” has thrust the scandal back into the public awareness.

This groundswell of public pressure marks a significant development in the long-running saga that has cast a dark shadow over the UK’s postal service.

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.

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Paula Vennells. Credit: PA

Ms Vennells was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon and later a priest and served as a non-stipendiary minister at the Church of St Owen in Bromham in St Albans.

“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Office, and moved out into other senior positions in government and healthcare, it is only right that this award is now withdrawn through the process of forfeiture.”

On Monday, the prime minister’s spokesman said Rishi Sunak would “strongly support” the Honours Forfeiture Committee if it decided to look at revoking Ms Vennells’ CB

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victims of the scandal Janet Skinner (left) and Tracy Felstead (right)

Ms Felstead also said she would like to see “someone held accountable”.

“We were classed as criminals by the Post Office,” she said. “Now it is their turn to be investigated and find out who knew what, why and when this all happened.”

The Horizon scandal centers around a faulty computer system implemented in the early 2000s. The system, plagued by glitches and errors, wrongly accused thousands of subpostmasters and mistresses of financial discrepancies. Many lost their businesses and livelihoods, and some even faced criminal charges based on the unreliable software. Despite years of complaints and mounting evidence, Post Office authorities initially dismissed calls for a review.

However, public scrutiny persisted, fueled by media investigations and documentaries highlighting the plight of the wrongly accused. In 2019, an independent inquiry finally acknowledged the system’s flaws and the devastating impact it had on subpostmasters. The inquiry’s findings led to compensation payouts and overturned criminal convictions, but many felt justice remained incomplete without accountability at the highest levels.

Vennells, who took over as CEO in 2019, initially faced calls for her resignation but maintained that she was focused on implementing the inquiry’s recommendations. However, critics have remained unconvinced, arguing that her continued leadership represents a stark symbol of the Post Office’s institutional failings. The one million signatures on the petition serve as a powerful testament to the public’s dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.

The Post Office has so far declined to comment directly on the petition, though a spokesperson reiterated the company’s commitment to learning from the Horizon scandal and ensuring fair treatment for all subpostmasters. However, the mounting pressure is likely to intensify calls for a more substantial response, potentially including Vennells’ resignation or a broader overhaul of the Post Office’s leadership and governance.

One million voices united in a single cause present a formidable force that cannot be easily ignored. Whether Vennells chooses to stay or go, the Post Office faces the crucial task of restoring public trust and ensuring that such a tragic miscarriage of justice never happens again. The road to redemption will be long and arduous, but the chorus of a million voices demanding accountability could be the first step towards rebuilding a postal service worthy of the communities it serves.

Meeting Today: Government ministers are convening today to discuss clearing the names of affected sub-postmasters. This crucial step follows decades of suffering for individuals who lost livelihoods, faced imprisonment, and even death due to the faulty Horizon software.

Scale of the Tragedy: Between 1999 and 2015, over 700 innocent individuals were accused of theft, fraud, and false accounting based on the flawed system. Despite being dubbed the worst miscarriage of justice in British history, only a fraction have had their convictions overturned.

Red Flags Ignored, Evidence Concealed:

Concerns about the Horizon system began surfacing in 2012 with complaints of inaccuracies, bugs, and missing money. Despite pledging full cooperation, the Post Office soon obstructed progress. They failed to provide requested documents to an independent investigation by Second Sight, a damning move later confirmed by the investigator himself.

Second Sight’s confidential report painted a grim picture. They found “unfit for purpose” software plagued by errors, communication failures, and inadequate cash tracking. Shockingly, the report concluded that instead of investigating these glitches, the Post Office unfairly blamed sub-postmasters for theft.

Ignoring this bombshell, the Post Office dismissed the report. Leaked to the BBC in 2014, it cast a dark shadow on their claims of transparency. Vennells’ assurance before Parliament that Second Sight received all requested information was publicly contradicted by the head investigator. The missing files hampered Second Sight’s ability to substantiate their suspicions of inadequate investigations and evidence in prosecuted cases.

The saga took a sinister turn in March 2015. Just before the report’s public release, Private Eye revealed the Post Office’s shocking attempt to bury the truth.

The Post Office’s obstructive tactics and disregard for due process raise serious questions about their role in the subsequent miscarriage of justice faced by hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters.

Renewed Public Attention: An ITV drama, “Mr Bates vs The Post Office,” has reignited public outrage and pressure for action. It highlights the human cost of the scandal and amplifies demands for justice.

Post Office’s Role: The government-owned Post Office acted as prosecutor in these cases, raising serious questions about conflict of interest and lack of oversight.

CBE Petition: Public anger against former CEO Paula Vennells is evident in the one million-strong petition seeking to strip her of her CBE.

Calls for Accountability: The inquiry into Horizon is ongoing, but calls for Vennells’ resignation and potential legal action against the Post Office are getting louder.

Prime Minister’s Response: Rishi Sunak has acknowledged the “appalling miscarriage of justice” and pledged government support for affected individuals. Three compensation schemes have been established, but concerns remain about their speed and reach.

Opposition Voices: Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey faces scrutiny for his role as postal affairs minister during the scandal. Calls for transparency and accountability are directed towards all authorities involved.

Police Investigation: A separate investigation by Scotland Yard into potential fraud arising from the prosecutions underscores the seriousness of the situation.

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