When will Paula Vennells give evidence to the Post Office inquiry?

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells. (PA)
Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells. (PA) (Jeremy Durkin)

Lead campaigner and former subpostmaster Alan Bates has told the Horizon IT inquiry that the Post Office spent 23 years “attempting to discredit and silence me”.

Bates, who was the focus of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office, this week gave evidence from the witness box, where he said his campaign for justice for subpostmasters was “something you couldn’t put down”.

Bates also told the inquiry that he did not feel confident former chief executive Paula Vennells was “truly invested” in an investigation into the reliability of Horizon data used to prosecute subpostmasters in July 2013, and was “concerned” this was because she was “not being told the full story”.

Vennells is also due to give evidence at the inquiry. Here, Yahoo News UK explains when that will be and what has happened to Vennells.

In February, Vennells forfeited her CBE following the fallout of the Horizon IT scandal which led to the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of subpostmasters.

Vennells, who ran the Post Office while it routinely denied there was a problem with its Horizon IT system, was appointed a CBE in December 2018. She stepped down from her Post Office role the following year.

She announced she would hand back her CBE in January. Pressure to do so - including a petition signed by 1.2 million people - intensified after the ITV drama brought the widespread miscarriage of justice back into the spotlight.

Vennells is an ordained Anglican priest in the Church of England. In February, the Archbishop of Canterbury said more questions should have been asked about the involvement of Vennells in the church.

Watch: Alan Bates was sacked as subpostmaster for being ‘unmanageable’, inquiry hears

She has been mentioned numerous times during the inquiry so far, including a claim from the chairman of the mediation scheme for people who believed they had been wrongly prosecuted by the Post Office that he repeatedly told Vennells that cases against subpostmasters “didn’t make sense”.

Vennells herself is due to give evidence on 22, 23 and 24 May.

She has said: “I continue to support and focus on co-operating with the inquiry and expect to be giving evidence in the coming months.

“I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the subpostmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.

“I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded.”

Paula Vennells Chief Executive Officer of the Post Office, during a visit to Farringdon Road Post Office, London to announce details of how the Government's 1.3 billion for the Post Office network will be used.   (Photo by Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images)
Paula Vennells pictured when she was CEO of the Post Office. (PA Images via Getty Images) (Anthony Devlin - PA Images via Getty Images)

What is the Post Office inquiry?

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the government-owned organisation 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.

The inquiry into this scandal, led by retired high court judge Sir Wyn Williams, aims to "establish a clear account of the implementation and failings of the system over its lifetime (a period of over 20 years).

"It will also consider whether Post Office Limited has learned the lessons and embedded the cultural change necessary."

It has been running since February 2022 and is set to finish in September.

It comes as hundreds of subpostmasters are awaiting compensation despite the government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.