Former Post Office boss says subpostmasters inquiry should have statutory powers

The former boss of the Post Office during the subpostmasters scandal has confirmed she is willing to appear as a witness into the UK’s biggest miscarriage of justice.

Paula Vennells, who ran the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, said she welcomed moves to give the inquiry statutory powers to compel witnesses to appear or risk jail for non-attendance.

She said in a statement: “It is beyond doubt there are serious and unanswered questions as to the manner in which subpostmasters were wrongly prosecuted.

Post Office court case
Paula Vennells has welcomed calls for the subpostmasters investigation to be given statutory powers (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“All those involved in any way have a duty to those subpostmasters and their families, who were innocent victims, to ensure that this can never happen again. I welcome calls for a statutory inquiry to be established.”

Her comments come as the Government is expected to confirm on Wednesday that the inquiry by retired High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams will be given the extra powers. A progress report is expected in the summer.

Ms Vennells oversaw the organisation whilst it routinely denied that there were problems with its Horizon IT system, instead accusing subpostmasters of stealing money.

But the Court of Appeal overturned convictions for 39 former subpostmasters, paving the way for 640 others to have their own convictions quashed.

Post Office court case
A protester outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London (Yui Mok/PA)

Following the scandal, which is thought to be the biggest miscarriage of justice in the UK, the former Post Office boss said she is “truly sorry” for the “suffering” caused to subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences.

Ms Vennells, who was an associate minister in the Diocese of St Albans, announced at the time that she would also be stepping back from her regular church duties in the wake of the Horizon scandal.

She also quit non-executive board roles at high street retailers Morrisons and Dunelm.