Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells makes tearful admission of ‘incorrect evidence’ in scandal inquiry

Paula Vennells has given evidence in the Post Office Scandal Inquiry as she spoke publicly for the first time in almost ten years

Paula Vennells, chief executive of Post Office Ltd., arrives for a Brexit discussion with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018
(Image credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has reportedly admitted that her evidence from 2012 was incorrect in the long-running Post Office Scandal Inquiry.

Earlier this year ITV’s Mr Bates vs The Post Office thrust the Post Office Scandal firmly back into the public consciousness and spotlight. Many viewers were left wondering where the real people were now, including former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells. In the months that have followed, those involved in the scandal have continued to be questioned in the long-running Post Office Scandal Inquiry and Vennells has now made a tearful admission. According to the BBC, this was the first time Vennells has spoken publicly in almost a decade and she reportedly admitted that evidence she gave back in 2012 was not correct.

Questioned in front of a room of sub-postmasters and post-mistresses, Vennells was asked by the Inquiry’s Lead Counsel Jason Beer about the evidence she previously gave to MPs. At the time she had reportedly told them that every case concerning the Horizon IT system brought against sub-postmasters had been successful. 

Former Chief Executive of Post Office Ltd, Paula Vennells, leaves the inquiry

Former Chief Executive of Post Office Ltd, Paula Vennells, leaves the inquiry on 22nd May

(Image credit: Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)

After Mr Beer listed several cases that hadn’t been, Vennells is said to have replied "I fully accept now, that the Post Office - excuse me", before breaking off, crying.

She allegedly continued, "The Post Office knew that. I completely accept it. Personally, I didn't know that, and I'm incredibly sorry that it happened to those people and to so many others."

The BBC went on to report that Vennells broke down in tears four times throughout the day and also apologised multiple times. She was Chief Executive of the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, when the sub-postmasters were still being prosecuted. Despite evidence of wrongful convictions, the organisation was continuing to deny that faults with the Horizon IT system were to blame for the money seemingly going missing.

Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells arrives to testify at the Post Office inquiry on May 22

Former Post Office Chief Executive Paula Vennells arrives to testify at the Post Office inquiry on 22nd May

(Image credit: Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

More than 900 people who were running post offices were prosecuted between 1999 and 2015 after the faulty computer system made it appear as though there were shortfalls in accounts. Whilst questioning Vennells, Mr Beer is said to have asked how she could not have known about what was going on.

In response she said, "This is a situation that is so complex, it is a question I have asked myself as well. I have learned some things that I did not know as a result of the inquiry and I imagine that we will go through some of the detail of that. I wish I had known."

Mr Beer also asked the former Post Office Chief Executive whether she thought she was the "unluckiest" CE in the UK. This was in light of her witness statements claiming that she wasn’t given information about Horizon, hadn’t been given assurances about the IT system by members of Post Office staff and didn’t see certain documents.

Paula Vennells arrives to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry in central London on 23rd May

Paula Vennells arrives to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry in central London on 23rd May

(Image credit: Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

"I was given much information, and as the inquiry has heard, there was information that I wasn't given, and others didn't receive," she declared.

During the questioning, Vennells apparently went on to describe herself as being "very affected" by the human impact statements given by those affected by the shocking scandal. She specifically apologised to Alan Bates, who has tirelessly campaigned for justice for those affected by the scandal and was an important figure in the real story behind Mr Bates vs the Post Office. She is also understood to have apologised to forensic accountants Second Sight who were fired by the Post Office after finding bugs in Horizon, as well as to Lord Arbuthnot who has also been a vehement campaigner.

The independent public inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal was launched in September 2020 and this became a statutory inquiry in June 2021, following a request from Sir Wyn Williams, the Chair of the Inquiry.

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!