Post office scandal: Ex-boss Vennells quits director jobs after scandal
The former chief executive of the Post Office has quit her roles on the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm following the IT scandal which led to the wrongful convictions of former postmasters. Morrisons announced Paula Vennells would leave after serving as a non-executive director since 2016.
She is relinquishing her non-executive position at home furnishing retailer Dunelm with immediate effect. She is also stopping her duties as an ordained Church of England minister.
Ms Vennells said: “It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken by the boards I serve.
“I have therefore stepped down with immediate effect from all of my board positions.”
Ms Vennells was chief executive of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019. On Friday, 39 former Post Office workers saw their criminal convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
They were based on the flawed software system Horizon which showed shortfalls in their accounts where they did not exist. The IT system was installed in 1999 under former chief executive John Roberts. Other appeals are expected to follow in what is the most widespread miscarriage of justice in the UK’s history.
The government has launched an inquiry into the prosecution of the former Post Office workers.
Ms Vennells said: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 sub-postmasters as a result of their convictions which were overturned last week.” Following her departure from the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm, Ms Vennells said she intended “to focus fully on working with the ongoing government inquiry to ensure the affected sub-postmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve”.
Dunelm’s chairman Andy Harrison said: “We respect Paula’s decision to step down from the Board and I would like to thank her for the positive contribution she has made to the business since her appointment in September 2019.”
The chairman of Morrisons, Andrew Higginson, said: “Paula has been an insightful, effective and hardworking non-executive director, and, on behalf of the Board, I want to thank her for her significant contribution over the last five years.”
More than 700 people were wrongly convicted of offences of theft, fraud and false accounting, in prosecutions between 2000 and 2014, and some of them were imprisoned.
Questions had been raised about the behaviour of Post Office directors during this time, and Ms Vennells, 62, faced calls to have her bonuses clawed back and be stripped of her CBE title, which had been given for “services to the Post Office and to charity”.
In a statement issued on Sunday evening, Ms Vennells, an associate Anglican minister in Bromham, Oakley and Stagsden, Bedfordshire, said she would be stepping back from her “regular parochial duties”.
Ms Vennells said: “It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken in the Diocese of St Albans and in the parishes I serve.
“I have therefore stepped back with immediate effect from regular parish ministry.”