The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has slammed the former boss of the Post Office, Paula Vennells CBE, after she handed back her state-sanctioned gong – saying police should look at a “criminal investigation” into her involvement in the ongoing Horizon scandal.
Post Office scandal: Vennells at the heart of it
The Canary has been reporting on the ongoing Post Office scandal – which has seen over 700 workers receive criminal convictions, some of them ending up imprisoned, while others lost their families and homes. Vennells was CEO of the company from 2012 to 2019. However, as Sky News reported:
Vennells oversaw the organisation while it routinely denied there were problems with its Horizon IT system.
Crucially, as an online petition over the scandal noted:
Vennells, who decided to resign days before the first substantial judgement was released by the High Court, has since been awarded a CBE, a position in the cabinet office of government and also… [chaired] one of the largest NHS Groups (Imperial NHS).
Now, Vennells has clearly realised just how shattered her reputation is. To double up on metaphors, she’s doing this after the horse has bolted and only because the cat is out of the bag thanks to the ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office. As the Guardian reported:
She was awarded her CBE for services to the Post Office and charity at the start of 2019, shortly before she stepped down – ending a seven-year period as chief executive during which she collected more than £4.5m in pay.
Snivelling AND potentially criminal?
However, the snivelling Vennells is now handing the CBE back. She said in a mealy-mouthed statement she was:
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.
So, responding to the news that Vennells has volunteered to hand in her CBE, CWU officer Andy Furey said:
This news, while welcome, was inevitable and is really just a token gesture compared to what real justice would look like.
Vennells holding such a distinction for services to the Post Office was always a slap in the face to every postmaster who suffered terribly under her leadership. Her time at the Post Office has forever tarnished this once-great national institution.
But for her, it involved receiving millions of pounds in pay and performance-related bonuses.
Since she received these bonuses while overseeing the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history, it would only be right to return this money.
There must also be serious considerations from the relevant authorities for criminal investigations into Vennells for allowing an extreme regime that resulted in the attack and criminalisation of hundreds of innocent, hard-working, pillars of society.
All in it together
Meanwhile, BBC News reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby personally pushed Vennells’ application to become Bishop of London:
Vennells was interviewed for the role of Bishop of London – the third most senior in the Church of England – but not appointed from a final shortlist of three.
It also noted that:
The Archbishop of Canterbury pushed her application and was seen as a supporter of her…
Of course, Welby is another – what you might refer to as – ‘capitalist Christian’, having been an oil executive before becoming a priest.
However, the broader point here is that Vennells is a prime example of how the system and the state reward the rich and powerful for destroying the lives of the rest of us. Given her closeness to the establishment, it’s highly unlikely she’ll ever be prosecuted for her role in the Post Office scandal. So, Vennells handing her CBE back will be cold comfort to her victims.
Featured image via Parliament TV