Ex-Post Office boss cries as admits incorrect evidence

Ex-Post Office boss apologises for Horizon scandal

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Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has made three apologies to an inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal.

Ms Vennells apologised to sub-postmasters, campaigners, and to the inquiry itself.

She is giving three days of evidence where she will be questioned by lawyers to try to find out how much she knew about the scandal.

As she apologised, the people at the inquiry, some of whom were sub-postmasters, remained silent, with a few shaking their heads.

Wednesday’s hearing marked the first time Ms Vennells has given evidence about the Horizon scandal for almost 10 years.

She was chief executive of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, a period of time when sub-postmasters were still being prosecuted, but the organisation continued to deny faults with the Horizon IT software was to blame for shortfalls in accounts.

This was despite mounting evidence of wrongful convictions.

Before lead counsel Jason Beer launched into the questioning, Ms Vennells turned to the people in the room and apologised.

“I would just like to say, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to do this in person, how sorry I am for all that sub-postmasters and their families and others have suffered as a result of all of the matters that the inquiry has been looking into for so long,” she said.

She said she was “very affected” by the human impact statements given by those affected by the scandal.

Between 1999 and 2015, hundreds of sub-postmasters were wrongly prosecuted after faulty Horizon software made it look like money was missing from Post Office branch accounts.

Some were sent to prison and many suffered financial hardship. Some have since died.

On Wednesday Ms Vennells offered to go and stand with one sub-postmaster outside his old Post Office to hear his story.

“I am very, very sorry,” she said.

Her second apology to campaigner Alan Bates, to forensic accountants Second Sight who were sacked by the Post Office after finding bugs in Horizon, and to Lord Arbuthnot, who has also campaigned on the behalf of sub-postmasters.

Ms Vennells also apologised “about today”, saying: “I will answer the questions truthfully, and I’m very aware that they will be difficult to listen to for you and for me, and I ask your understanding in advance for that.”

Jason Beer, lead counsel for the inquiry, asked the former Post Office boss if she thought she had been the “unluckiest” chief executive in the UK given that, according to her witness statements, she wasn’t given information about Horizon, didn’t see certain documents, and had been given assurances about the IT system by Post Office staff.

“I was given much information, and as the inquiry has heard, there was information that I wasn’t given, and others didn’t receive,” she said.

She added that she had been “too trusting” and that she was “disappointed” where information hadn’t been shared.

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