Former Post Office boss Vennells ‘heading into corner where there is no way out’, as inquiry showdown looms

Subpostmistress who ‘lost everything’ in Horizon scandal says compensation ‘won’t cut it’

post office, horizon, former post office boss vennells ‘heading into corner where there is no way out’, as inquiry showdown looms

The former Post Office boss is “heading into a corner where there is no way out” as she is set to give evidence at the Horizon IT inquiry, a fomer subpostmistress said.

Jo Hamilton, who was prosecuted after being falsely accused of stealing £36,000 from the company, said former Post Office chief exectuive Paula Vennells should apologise and come clean about the scandal.

Ms Vennells is set to give evidence to the probe on Wednesday but was said to believe there had been no miscarriages of justice - of which more than 700 people were affected by when handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015.

“You can fight all you like, the documents are there - but eventually she’s heading into the corner where there’s no way out,” Ms Hamilton said.

“We just want the truth. You’d have thought a bit of her humanity would have come out and she should have done the right thing.

“I don’t know - is she feeble? Is she really a feeble person? Was she over-promoted? The whole thing I find bizarre. I’m really intrigued to know what she’s going to come out with.

post office, horizon, former post office boss vennells ‘heading into corner where there is no way out’, as inquiry showdown looms
Paula Vennells is set to give evidence to the probe on Wednesday but was said to believe there had been no miscarriages of justice (PA Wire)

The Post Office came under fire after ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which put the Horizon IT scandal under the spotlight.

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Hundreds of subpostmasters are still awaiting full compensation despite the Government announcing those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

But the inquiry heard Ms Vennells did not believe there had been miscarriages of justice during evidence given by the firm’s current chief financial officer Alisdair Cameron on Friday.

post office, horizon, former post office boss vennells ‘heading into corner where there is no way out’, as inquiry showdown looms
Alan Bates’ two-decade fight for justice inspired the ITV series Mr Bates vs The Post Office (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

Commenting on the evidence, Ms Hamilton added: “She did know. The tone of some of her emails - I’m sure of it. So she knew they were in trouble.

“I’m obviously not privy to all the disclosure like the lawyers are but I know there’s stuff that exists that shows she knew, and she just carried it on.

“Eventually, if there are criminal charges for perverting the course of justice, she might as well come clean now, because as I was told, if you do an early plea, you get a lesser sentence - except I hadn’t done anything.

“If I was her, I wouldn’t be in that position in the first place, but if I was her I would just put my hands up now and say ‘do you know what, we’re all in it up to our necks, I’m really sorry and this is what happened’ and then take it on the chin.

post office, horizon, former post office boss vennells ‘heading into corner where there is no way out’, as inquiry showdown looms
More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 (PA Wire)

Solicitor Neil Hudgell, whose firm represents Ms Hamilton and 74 other subpostmasters, said: “Our clients have waited a very long time to hear Ms Vennells’ evidence, and it goes without saying that the week ahead is of monumental significance.

“It is not for me to speculate on what evidence Ms Vennells may give to the inquiry, but as the operational head of the organisation it is for her to take ownership and accountability for what went on during her term of office.

“Victims of this scandal are re-traumatised every time they hear denial, untruth or subterfuge and can’t begin to move on without answers, accountability and genuinely expressed regret and sorrow.

“We sincerely hope that Ms Vennells will deliver on her promise to bring much needed clarity and understanding to these proceedings.”

The Department for Business and Trade has received 187 claims as of 30 April and has made offers on 173 of these and paid 141.

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