Wide attention has been focused on the Post Office Horizon scandal and former CEO Paula Vennells in the UK following the airing of the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office in early 2024.

This was a dramatisation of the scandal which saw hundreds of sub-postmasters be prosecuted for theft, fraud or false accounting based on data produced by the faulty IT system Horizon.

This IT system was installed by the Post Office in the late 1990s which made it appear money was going missing from their branches.

The Post Office relentlessly pursued people between 1999 and 2015; routinely denying there were problems with Horizon, despite knowing that from at least 2010 onwards there were faults in the centralised accounting software, The Guardian reports.

Dorset Echo: Paula Vennells spent seven years as CEO of the Post OfficePaula Vennells spent seven years as CEO of the Post Office (Image: Jeremy Durkin/PA Wire)

From 2012 to 2019 Paula Vennells was the CEO of the Post Office and has come under criticism for her tenure there.

Who is Paula Vennells?

Paula Vennells is an ex-businesswoman who worked for the likes of L'Oréal, Dixons Retail, Argos, and Whitbread before working at the Post Office.

She joined them as a group network director in 2007, then became managing director in 2010 before getting the position of CEO in 2012.

After seven years as CEO of the Post Office, she stepped down in February 2019 and then took over as chair of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in April of the same year.

In December 2019 a group of post office operators won a high court case in which their convictions were ruled wrongful and the Horizon IT system was ruled to be at fault.

Then in 2021, the ruling was upheld on appeal, quashing the convictions of some workers who were wrongly accused of committing crimes, and paving the way for compensation.

Following that ruling Vennells stepped down from a number of positions, including at the NHS and as a minister with the Church of England.

Vennells was heavily criticised following the ending of the High Court case, with Conservative peer Lord Arbuthnot not holding back in his views.

As reported in Computer Weekly, he said: "The hallmark of Paula Vennells’ time as CEO was that she was willing to accept appalling advice from people in her management and legal teams.

"The consequences of this were far-reaching for the Post Office and devastating for the subpostmasters. However, there seem to have been no consequences for her."

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Petition to remove Paul Vennells' CBE

In the 2019 New Year Honours Vennells was awarded a CBE "for services to the Post Office and to charity".

Following the airing of Mr Bates vs The Post Office, a petition was launched to have that honour stripped, with it attracting more than one million signatures.

Vennells agreed to hand the title back and it was formally stripped from her in February for "bringing the honours system into disrepute", according to the Cabinet Office.