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Former Post Office Chief Paula Vennells urged to return CBE after scandal | UK | News UK News

Criminal prosecutions over the post office computer glitch scandal are a “reasonable” possibilty, a minister has said, as the woman in charge at the time was yesterday urged to hand back the CBE she was awarded in 2019.

Former Post Office chief Paula Vennells was told she should “voluntarily” consider handing back her CBE by Postal Minister Kevin Hollinrake, who said he believed criminal prosecutions now appeared “reasonable”.

His intervention came as victims still waiting for compensation for having their lives ruined demanded the Government “gets moving with payments”.

In an apology to those impacted the former Business Secretary Grant Shapps said 13 months ago he hoped “most cases can be resolved before the end of 2023”.

But Mr Hollinrake admitted hundreds of payouts remain yet to be finalised as the system is proving “highly complex” but vowed to meet a deadline of August 7 – spelling a further eight more months of agony for victims.

Ms Vennells – the CEO of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019 -was awarded a CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours List for services to the organisation. She previously apologised for the “suffering” caused to subpostmasters after 39 workers’ convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2021.

Mr Hollinrake said: “I think that matter needs to be look at. I’ve got to say if I was Paula Vennells -ultimately you’ve got responsibility for what happened, you are the Chief Executive. If I was Paula Vennells I would seriously consider handing that [CBE] back voluntarily”.

He added: “But we’ve got an Inquiry… looking at all the evidence. It will report and that should identify who is responsible, in the Post Office or indeed potentially in Fujitsu, and those people wherever possible should be held to account”.

The minister, appearing on GMB, was asked whether any individual whose lies or dishonesty has led to innocent person going to jail should be prosecuted, replied: “That seems reasonable to me. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a prosecutor, so there needs to be a legal route to that.”

Victims of the scandal, currently being dramatised by ITV’s ‘Mr Bates Vs The Post Office’ drama, revealed they are still waiting for compensation.

Real life hero Alan Bates has asked “why is there still no justice” – 24 years after their wrongful convictions for stealing.

It was described as the most widespread miscarriage of justice in UK history with more than 700 branch managers prosecuted by the Post Office between 1999 and 2015.

Mr Bates has demanded the compensation is handed over before more people die of old age, after more than 60 people have already passed away without getting a penny.

He said: “Get moving with the compensation. Don’t extend the deadline for payments because you can’t extend people’s lives.”

The former sub-postmaster, who is played by Toby Jones in new ITV hit, has campaigned for two decades to expose the truth about the IT system glitches that devastated 3,500 staff.

In December the Department for Business and Trade said 93 convictions have so far been overturned while the first 27 claims have agreed full and final settlements. It said £138million has been paid out so far to over 2,700 claimants across the three Post Office compensation schemes.

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This notice was published: 2024-01-03 21:01:00

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