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22nd May 2024

Paula Vennells breaks down in tears as she’s questioned about Horizon Post Office scandal

Charlie Herbert

paula vennells breaks down in tears in front of MPs

Vennells admitted she had misled MPs during her time as Post Office CEO

Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells broke down in tears in front of MPs as she was questioned about the Horizon scandal.

Vennells was giving evidence on Wednesday at the public inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal, in which hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 after faulty software said money was missing from Post Office branch accounts.

The 65-year-old became emotional as she admitted she had misled MPs on legal cases related to defects in the Horizon system.

You can watch the moment below.

Vennells was chief executive of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, a period which included the final years of the scandal.

As she gave evidence to MPS, inquiry counsel Jason Beer KC listed a number of sub-postmasters and postmistresses who had been acquitted after being accused of stealing money from the Post Office.

All of them had blamed Horizon for the accounting shortfalls.

Vennells was asked why she had previously told MPs during her time as CEO that “every prosecution involving the Horizon system had been successful, and had found in favour of the Post Office.”

As she started to respond, Vennells had to pause as she broke down in tears.

She said: “I fully accept now that the Post Office, excuse me […] the Post Office knew that, I completely accept it. Personally I didn’t know it and I’m incredibly sorry it happened to those people and so many others.”

At the start of her evidence, Vennells apologised to the victims of the Horizon scandal, saying she was sorry to “sub-postmasters and their families and others who suffered as a result of all of the matters that inquiry has been looking into.”

The Horizon scandal gathered national attention following the broadcast of ITV drama, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, in January this year.

In the four-part series, Vennells was played by Lia Williams.

After its broadcast, the former Post Office boss was urged to hand back her CBE, which she had been awarded at the start of 2019, the same year that she stepped down from her role.

Shortly after a petition was launched calling for her CBE to be stripped from her, Vennells confirmed she would hand back the honour.

You can watch more from Vennells’ appearance in front of the inquiry below, or by clicking here.