'Are you a liar?' Shamed ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells heckled as she arrives at Horizon inquiry flanked by police

22 May 2024, 09:35 | Updated: 22 May 2024, 09:37

Paula Vennells
Paula Vennells. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has been heckled as she had to force her way through a media scrum to get into the Horizon inquiry hearing to give evidence.

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Ms Vennells, 65, helmed the Post Office from 2012-2019, covering part of an IT scandal that saw hundreds of sub-postmasters wrongly prosecuted.

She was tight-lipped as she entered the central London inquiry building on Wednesday morning, for the first of three days on which she is scheduled to give evidence.

Read more: Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells formally stripped of CBE by King Charles

Read more: Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells refuses to answer questions on Horizon scandal as she's confronted at church

Ms Vennells has been urged by the postmasters to tell the truth about any personal wrongdoings.

One of the questions she will be asked is if she misled parliament in 2015, when she told MPs that she hadn't seen of any evidence of miscarriages of justice.

But in 2013, a barrister had warned the Post Office that there had been problems with past prosecutions.

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells arrives to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House, central London. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2024.
Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells arrives to give evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House, central London. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2024. Picture: Alamy

She will be questioned under oath not long after a historic email surfaced which showed her describing potential wrongful convictions of subpostmasters as "very disturbing" - more than a year before prosecutions were halted.

As she arrived at the inquiry, journalists asked her if she was a liar, and pressed her for more details on her role in the scandal.

But she refused to speak, and simply smiled faintly as police officers ushered her into the inquiry through a tight crowd of reporters and photographers jostling round her.

Paula Vennells
Paula Vennells. Picture: Alamy

The Post Office denied there were any problems with the Horizon accounting system. which made it appear that money was missing and let to a spate of wrongful convictions of sub-postmasters.

More than 900 were wrongly prosecuted between 1999 and 2015. Some were even jailed for theft and false accounting.

Ms Vennells has been a figurehead for wrongdoing during the Horizon scandal, and was stripped of her CBE earlier this year for bringing the honours system into disrepute.

She had earlier announced she would give it up voluntarily after a petition garnered more than a million signatures.

Ms Vennells said in January: "I continue to support and focus on co-operating with the inquiry...

"I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence...

Nick Ferrari and this caller agree that the Post Office scandal is 'disgusting'

"I am 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.

"I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded.

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