Post Office chief quits board of companies as employees cleared of scandal

Post Office: Subpostmasters have their convictions overturned

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It came after she said she was “truly sorry” for the “suffering” caused to sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted and jailed. Ms Vennells, an associate minister in the Diocese of St Albans, also announced that she would be stepping back from her regular church duties. She took home £89,000 in fees from supermarket Morrisons and had received £30,000 from Dunelm in the past year.

Andy Harrison, chairman of the home furnishings retailer, said: “We respect Paula’s decision to step down from the board and I would like to thank her for the positive contribution she has made to the business.”

Andrew Higginson, Morrisons chairman, said: “Paula has been an insightful, effective and hardworking non-executive director.”

Hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses were prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system.

On Friday, 39 who were convicted and even jailed had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.

In a statement, Ms Vennells, who was Post Office chief executive from 2012 to 2019, said: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 sub-postmasters as a result of their convictions which were overturned last week.

“It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken in the Diocese of St Albans and in the parishes I serve.

“I have therefore stepped back with immediate effect from regular parish ministry, and intend to focus fully on working with the ongoing Government inquiry to ensure the affected sub-postmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve.”

The Bishop of St Albans said: “As the son of a former sub-postmaster I express my distress at the miscarriage of justice that so many sub-postmasters have suffered.” Ms Vennells left the Post Office in 2019, months before a damning High Court judgment in a civil claim brought against it by hundreds of former sub-postmasters and mistresses.

Lord Justice Holroyde said the Post Office “effectively steamrolled over any sub-postmaster who sought to challenge its accuracy”.

After last week’s ruling, those whose convictions were overturned called for a public inquiry into the scandal. The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates potential miscarriages of justice, has encouraged any former employees to challenge their convictions.

Nick Read, Post Office chief executive, said: “The quashing of historical convictions is a vital milestone in fully and properly addressing the past as I work to put right these wrongs as swiftly as possible, and there must be compensation that reflects what has happened.”

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