From the 'Prince of Darkness' to Sir Ed: The key figures who presided over the Post Office Horizon scandal

9 January 2024, 11:53 | Updated: 10 January 2024, 08:32

Tim Parker (L), described as the 'Prince of Darkness', with Paula Vennells (R), the Post Office's former CEO
Tim Parker (L), described as the 'Prince of Darkness', with Paula Vennells (R), the Post Office's former CEO. Picture: Getty/Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Post Office Horizon scandal is one of Britain's greatest miscarriages of justice in its history.

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It was thrust back into the limelight last week following the release of a four-part drama centring around Alan Bates, a key campaigner in holding the Post Office to account during the scandal.

The TV drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office, has enraged the nation as it told the story of how hundreds of Post Office workers were wrongly given criminal convictions after faulty software made it look as though money was missing.

While much of the focus has been on the victims of the scandal, and rightly so, it is also important to remember there were a number of senior officials who presided over the Post Office as it continued its campaign of wrongful prosecutions.

From the Post Office's former CEO, Paula Vennells, to the current leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, here are some of the key players during the Horizon scandal.

Paula Vennells

Former Post Office Chief Executive Paula Vennells
Former Post Office Chief Executive Paula Vennells. Picture: Alamy

A key figure in the Horizon scandal, Paula Vennells served as the Post Office's former Chief Executive between 2012 and 2019.

She started her career as interpreter after university, before working at a series of high-street brands, including Argos and Dixons.

It was not until 2007, however, that she joined the Post Office as a network director. At this point, the Post Office's faulty Horizon system had been up and running for more than a decade.

When she became CEO in 2012, postmasters convicted as part of the scandal had already started campaigning for justice as the Post Office, acting as prosecutor, went after countless postmasters.

Vennells insisted in 2015 that there was "no evidence" of injustice but four years later, the Post Office agreed to pay out £58 million to more than 500 sub-postmasters - shortly after Vennells left the company.

Read More: Paula Vennells’s church compares Post Office TV drama to The Crown and says she shouldn't be judged on show

In the same year, Vennells was awarded a CBE for "services to charity and the Post Office", an honour she is now under pressure to give up.

In the High Court Case, Mr Justice Peter Fraser criticised Post Office managers and Fujitsu executives for ignoring evidence that indicated the postmasters were innocent.

Vennells earned millions during her time at the Post Office, including from her £717,500 salary in her final year at the institution, and has gone on to make even more money after the scandal.

After leaving in 2019, Vennells worked as chairwoman of Imperial College Health NHS Trust for two years, while also taking on two directorships.

One was at Dunelm, pauing £51,000 a year, as well as an £89,000-a-year role at Morrisons, The Telegraph reports.

Following the squashing of 39 convictions of sub-postmasters in April 2021, Vennells resigned from all of her roles, including as an Anglican priest.

Tim Parker

Paula Vennells (C) with a Post Office worker (L) and Tim Parker (R)
Paula Vennells (C) with a Post Office worker (L) and Tim Parker (R). Picture: Alamy

Another key figure in the Post Office Horizon scandal was Tim Parker, the former chairman of the Post Office.

Parker has worked in senior roles at a number of companies across the UK, including the AA and Kwik Fit, with the former role landing him a 'Prince of Darkness' title - given to him by trade unions after he cut thousands of jobs.

He joined the Post Office as chairman three years after Vennells became CEO, and donated his £75,000-a-year salary to charity.

Parker described the Post Office's "strong social purpose" when asked what attracted him to the role, though he appeared to support Vennells as she led the institution's prosecution of sub-postmasters.

Read More: Rishi Sunak gathers Cabinet to bring ‘faster justice’ for Post Office victims as Alan Johnson says Fujitsu should pay up

In 2020, Mr Parker apologised on behalf of the Post Office for what he described as “historical failings”.

“Post Office is resetting its relationship with postmasters with reforms that prevent such past events ever happening again,” he added.

Parker resigned in September 2022.

Adam Crozier

Adam Crozier
Adam Crozier. Picture: Alamy

Like many on this list, Adam Crozier has an extensive career working at British companies.

While he currently operates as chairman of BT, Crozier became chief executive of Royal Mail during its time under the Post Office.

It was under his tenure as chairman that prosecutions of postmasters began. During this time, Crozier earned millions of pounds, before becoming chairman of ITV and Whitbread.

His basic salary at BT is thought to be around £700,000 and has also served as chief executive of the FA.

Sir Ed Davey

Sir Ed Davey
Sir Ed Davey. Picture: Getty

While Sir Ed did not work for the Post Office during this scandal, he served as postal affairs minister from May 2010 to February 2012.

Before that, he worked in the postal services industry at Omega Partners, so he is well-versed in the industry.

During his time as minister in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, Alan Bates wrote to Sir Ed as he sought to expose the Horizon scandal.

Sir Ed gave a brief reply, in which he told Mr Bates that a meeting would not serve a purpose.

They later met, Mr Bates confirmed to the Sunday Times, though Sir Ed has faced continued criticism for letting the scandal unfold while in government.

Sir Ed is now leader of the Liberal Democrats, a job he has held on a permanent basis since 2020.

He has insisted he was not aware of the evidence that eventually came to light during the Horizon scandal, saying on Monday: “I wish I’d known then what we all know now”.

“This is a conspiracy by the Post Office to deceive people,” he said.

Richard Christou

One lesser known figure involved the Post Office scandal is Richard Christou, who acted as CEO of Fujitsu between 2000 and 2004.

Fujitsu is the technology company whose flawed Horizon IT system gave the false impression that sub-postmasters had stolen money from the Post Office.

It recently posted profits of £22 million, paying out millions of pounds in salary and bonuses to directors, The Guardian reports.

He worked at the company as chairman in 2007 and in 2019, spoke positively of his time working on Horizon at Fujitsu.

Speaking of negotiating the Pathway Project, which led to Horizon, “I did that, nobody else did, and it was not a legal issue, this was negotiation. 

"They still have the contract, twenty-five years later, and it’s been their most profitable.”

Christou lives in Lisbon and worked with the Japanese IT firm until 2012.

Other key figures

Alice Perkins - Chairwoman of the Post Office between 2011 until 2015. She said sorry for the “deep distress” caused by the Horizon scandal in 2021.

Angela van den Bogerd - Post Office director who handled complaints about Horizon, beginning in 2010. She was described as having a “disregard for factual accuracy” in the High Court case. She stayed in her role until 2020.

Gareth Jenkins - A Fujitsu engineer who helped to build Fujitsu’s Horizon programme.

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