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To: Sir Chris Wormald, Chair of the Forfeiture Committee, Cabinet Office
Strip Paula Vennells of her CBE
Remove the CBE granted to Paula Vennells due to her role in the wrongful prosecution of 550 Post Office staff as part of the Horizon computer scandal.
Why is this important?
Evidence has been produced that the Post Office engaged in a mass cover up which led to the wrongful prosecution of 550 Post Office Staff many of whom were subsequently jailed, bankrupted and in some cases, sadly took their own lives.
The initial Post Office investigation in 2012 failed to find any issues and as a result in 2012, Second Sight, an independent investigative firm were brought in to investigate complaints that the Horizon system used in post offices was inaccurate, buggy and could 'lose money'. Despite pledging full co-operation initially, Post Office subsequently witheld documents from the investigation and Paula Vennells later failed to answer a select committee when challenged on why this documents had not been produced as requested. The damning report, marked as 'confidential' stated that the Horizon system was 'not fit for purpose' and among their discoveries were 12,000 communication failures every year, software defects at 76 branches and that the system was failing to track money from lottery terminal, tax disc sales and cache machines properly. It concluded that rather than investigate the cause of such errors, Post Office instead accussed sub-postmasters of theft. The Post Office dismissed the report which was subsequently leaked to the BBC in 2014.
Despite Paula Vennells assertion that Post Office "have been working with Second Sight over the last few weeks on what we agreed at the outset. We have been provided the information" to Parliament at her select committee appearance in 2015, the lead investigator for Second Sight, Adrian Bailey, when asked if this was the case said categorically, "No, it is not" which meant that he could not access files to back up his suspicions that Post OFfice Ltd had brought cases against sub=-postmasters with 'inadequate investigation and inadequate evidence'. The requested files had still not been handed over to Second Sight 18 months later.
In March 2015, on the eve of the Second Sight report publication, Private Eye reported that the Post Office had instructed Second Sight to end their investigation, destroy all paperwork and scrapped the independent committee that had been convened.
In 2019, a class action case, Bates & Ors v Post Office Ltd, was settled by the Post Office in favour of the 550 sub-postmasters for over £58 million.
Mr Justice Fraser, the judge in the case concluded that the approach of the Post Office: "amounted, in reality, to bare assertions and denials that ignore what has actually occurred, at least so far as the witnesses called before me in the Horizon Issues trial are concerned. It amounts to the 21st century equivalent of maintaining that the earth is flat."
Mr Justic Fraser, so concerned by what he had seen in the case, has passed a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions. In the Lords, Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom said in November 2019: "My own suggestion is that the government should clear out the entirety of the board and senior management of the Post Office and start again, perhaps with the assistance of consultancy services from Second Sight, who know where the bodies are buried.".
Having been handed a CBE for services to the Post Office, and moved out into other senior positions in government and healthcare, it is only right that this award is now withdrawn through the process of forfeiture.
Paula Vennells has subsequently refused to answer questions from these staff as well as the media and has refused to apologise for the cover-up, misery and trauma caused which has brought not only herself but the Post Office, the honours system and government into disrepute.