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Former Post Office boss returns honour over scandal

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THE former boss of Britain’s Post Office said on Tuesday (9) she will return a royal honour received from Queen Elizabeth II as public anger mounts over a miscarriage of justice scandal.

Former-CEO Paula Vennells said she had “listened” to the growing clamour to hand back the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) honour given to her in 2018 and decided to relinquish it.

A petition calling for her to be stripped of the CBE, handed out “for services to the Post Office and to charity”, had garnered more than a million signatures by the start of this week.

It follows renewed focus on what has been described as Britain’s biggest ever miscarriage of justice, which saw hundreds of subpostmasters wrongly convicted of theft because of a glitch in accounting software.

“I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect,” Vennells said in a statement.

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

Lives were ruined by the false accusations that led to some Post Office branch managers being jailed, going bankrupt, losing their homes and their health.

Four people took their own lives and dozens of those since exonerated died without seeing their names cleared.

The High Court in 2019 ruled that it had been computer errors, not criminality, that had been behind the missing money.

A new TV drama telling the story of the subpostmasters’ ordeal at the hands of their own employer has generated a fresh wave of sympathy for the victims — and pressure on the government to rectify the situation.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has described the scandal as an “appalling miscarriage of justice” that should “never have happened”, and his government has said it is exploring how all the convictions can be quashed.

A public inquiry into the scandal led by retired high court judge Wyn Williams was established in September 2020, and its legal powers were beefed up in June 2021.

In her statement Vennells said she would “continue to support and focus on co-operating with the inquiry” and expects to give evidence “in the coming months”.

(AFP)

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