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Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells officially loses CBE over her role in Horizon sub-postmaster scandal


Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells today forfeited her CBE for ‘bringing the honours system into disrepute’.

The former chief executive agreed to hand back her gong last month amid fury at the treatment of hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongfully convicted by IT failures.

She was handed the reward in 2019, just a month before quitting the beleaguered government-owned company. 

It was later revealed that the Post Office allowed hundreds of staff to be prosecuted and jailed for fraud and theft, despite knowing the issues were caused by its Horizon IT system. 

But pressure on her to hand it back intensified in January when an ITV drama – Mr Bates vs The Post Office – thrust the widespread miscarriage of justice back into the spotlight. 

Ms Vennells was named on Friday in a list published on the Cabinet Office website as an individual whose honour had been revoked by the King. It was also noted in the Gazette, the official record of honours.

The former chief executive agreed to hand back her gong last amid fury at the treatment of hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongfully convicted by IT failures.

The former chief executive agreed to hand back her gong last amid fury at the treatment of hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongfully convicted by IT failures.

Ms Vennells was named on Friday in a list published on the Cabinet Office website as an individual whose honour had been revoked by the King. It was also noted in the Gazette, the official record of honours.

Ms Vennells was named on Friday in a list published on the Cabinet Office website as an individual whose honour had been revoked by the King. It was also noted in the Gazette, the official record of honours.

It came after the Archbishop of Canterbury broke his silence over her church role. 

Ms Vennells, who is an ordained priest, was shortlisted for the position of Bishop of London in 2017 and Church of England sources have suggested the Most Revd Justin Welby was among her backers.

The archbishop has now admitted closer attention should been paid to the ‘appropriateness’ of Ms Vennells’ involvement with a number of CofE bodies.

It came in the form of a written answer to questions submitted ahead of the church’s general synod, which begins today.

Mr Welby had been asked whether the Church Nominations Commission had been informed of a High Court claim by sub-postmasters against the Post Office when it considered her application to become a bishop.

He replied: ‘As has been said more generally about Paula Vennells’ involvement in various committees and working groups in the Church of England, by 2019 and 2020, it is clear that more questions should have been asked about the appropriateness of that involvement when more had come to light about the Horizon scandal. We recognise this and will need to reflect on it.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured) has broken his silence over a church role for disgraced Post Office boss Paula Vennells

The Archbishop of Canterbury (pictured) has broken his silence over a church role for disgraced Post Office boss Paula Vennells

The archbishop described the scandal as ‘a terrible miscarriage of justice’, but said that confidentiality rules prevented him discussing applications for the Bishop of London post.

The questions highlight an embarrassing episode for the CofE which commissioned Ms Vennells to report on the implementation of the Church Buildings Review.

At the time sub-postmasters had launched a legal action in the High Court, revealing the extent to which they had been victimised by the Post Office over the faulty Horizon computer system.

More than 700 Post Office branch managers were prosecuted based on the software, which made it appear money was missing from their offices.

Many faced financial ruin, while others were imprisoned for false accounting and theft.

Ms Vennells stood down as Post Office chief executive in 2019, the same year she was awarded a CBE for services to the company. She has handed back the honour.

A spokesman for the Church of England said it would not comment on candidates for senior positions. 



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