Sunak backs review into ex-Post Office boss' CBE as petition calling for her to be stripped of honour passes 1m

8 January 2024, 13:20 | Updated: 8 January 2024, 15:12

Mr Sunak said he would 'strongly support' the committee if they choose to review Ms Vennell's CBE.
Mr Sunak said he would 'strongly support' the committee if they choose to review Ms Vennell's CBE. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Rishi Sunak has said he would ‘strongly support’ the Honours Forfeiture Committee if it decides to review Paula Vennells’ CBE.

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Ms Vennells was awarded the CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours List for services to the "Post Office and to charity”.

There have been mounting calls to revoke Ms Venells of her CBE after ITV aired Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which dramatises the affair.

A petition calling for the ex-Post Office boss to be stripped of her CBE garnered one million signatures just a week after launching.

Mr Sunak has now said that he would “strongly support” the Honours Forfeiture Committee should it decide to look at revoking Ms Vennell’s CBE.

An official spokesman for Mr Sunak said: “It is a decision for them [the committee] to take, he would strongly support them if they look into it.”

The Horizon scandal came about after more than 700 branch managers were convicted of false accounting, theft and fraud based on faulty software.

Further claims have since emerged that the Post Office could have wrongly prosecuted dozens more operators due to the faulty Horizon system.

Read more: Horizon scandal hero Alan Bates gifted luxury flights and trip to Richard Branson's private island after TV drama

Read more: Ministers call for former Post Office boss to lose CBE over Horizon scandal ahead of emergency debate

There have been growing calls to strip the former Post Office boss of her CBE.
There have been growing calls to strip the former Post Office boss of her CBE. Picture: Alamy

The Post Office acted as a prosecutor as it brought cases against sub-postmasters between 1999 and 2015, leaving many wrongfully imprisoned.

Ms Vennells oversaw the Post Office as it denied there were any problems with the system, which made it appear that money was missing and led to a spate of wrongful convictions.

David Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden and former party chairman, told LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty that he backs a mass exoneration for the Horizon scandal victims.

“On the exoneration side of things, overturning the convictions, we should stop objecting or challenging the appeals. So that’s got to stop.”

David Davis says a 'mass appeal' should be possible for Horizon scandal victims

“I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible to be have a mass appeal, everybody whose computer was accessed by the Post Office or Fujitsu, their conviction should be automatically overturned.”

Speaking at Accrington on Monday morning, Mr Sunak said the government will do “everything we can to make this right for all the people affected”.

He branded the scandal as an “appalling miscarriage of justice” as he said the government is working to speed up the compensation process.

He said: “People should know that we are on it and we want to make this right. The money has been set aside.

“What we are now looking at is how can we speed all of that up.”

Two Cabinet ministers have said Ms Vennells should be stripped of her CBE.

One minister told The Telegraph: “She should definitely lose her CBE. It is absolutely disgraceful what has happened to these people.”

A second Cabinet minister added: "She wilfully obfuscated and sought to defend the indefensible and that is just not honourable or becoming of the office."

Mr Sunak confirmed on Sunday that justice secretary Alex Chalk is trying to find a way to speed up that process - potentially by removing the Post Office from the appeals process.

"It wouldn't be right to pre-empt that process, obviously there's legal complexity in all of those things," Mr Sunak said.

"It's right we find every which way we can do to try and make this right for these people who were wrongfully treated at the time.

"Compensation is a part of that but there may be legal things that may be possible as well, and that's what the justice secretary is looking at."

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