Tech

King Charles strips disgraced Post Office CEO of her CBE

Paula Vennells has had her CBE formally removed by the King following public outrage at her role in the Post Office Horizon scandal.

The former Post Office CEO said she would hand back her CBE last month after the airing of ITV’s drama about the scandal, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, but it has now been formally stripped.

Following the drama, an online petition recalling for her to be stripped of her honour received more than a million signatures in a few days.

She held the top job at the Post Office between 2012 and 2019 after holding other senior roles for a few years, and left the Post Office in 2019. This was just before a damaging High Court judgment that slammed the management of the organisation that punished subpostmasters for mistakes made by its own computer system. She took more than £400,000 in pay and bonuses with her.

In January 2023, as revealed by Computer Weekly, Alan Bates, the former subpostmaster who has led the fight for justice, turned down an OBE. At the time, he told Computer Weekly it would be inappropriate to accept the offer because former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells still holds her CBE, bringing the “whole honours system into disrepute”.

He thanked all the people who put his name forward for the award, but told the Honours Committee: “Whilst I do appreciate that there may well be people who believe that, after the many years of my unpaid campaigning, which I led in order to expose the truth, I deserve some recognition for my work, I hope you can understand why it would be so inappropriate for me to accept any award at present, while so many of the victims continue to suffer so badly and [Paula] Vennells still retains an honour and remains a ‘role model’ to the Honours Committee.”

The Post Office Horizon scandal saw subpostmasters blamed and made to cover unexplained losses in their accounts which were caused by the computer system from Fujitsu, known as Horizon, which the Post Office rolled out in 1999/2000. Subpostmasters lost thousands of pounds, with many sacked and made bankrupt. More than 700 were prosecuted based on evidence from Horizon. Hundreds were sent to prison after being prosecuted by the Post Office and convicted of crimes as theft and false accounting.

In 2009, Computer Weekly told the stories of seven subpostmasters affected by the losses, which led to many more who had suffered losses coming forward (see timeline of Computer Weekly articles below).

Also read: What you need to know about the Horizon scandal. 

Watch: ITV’s Post Office scandal documentary, Mr Bates vs the Post Office: The real story

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