The former boss of the Post Office Paula Vennells today quit the boards of Morrisons and Dunelm just days after senior judges criticised the “egregious” failings of the postal business in the scandalous miscarriage of justice for postmasters.
She quit after 39 sub-postmasters had their wrongful convictions for theft, fraud and false accounting overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Vennells, who was chief executive of the organisation from 2012 to 2019, resigned, saying: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 sub-postmasters as a result of their convictions which were overturned last week.
“It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken by the boards I serve.
“I have therefore stepped down with immediate effect from all of my board positions, and intend to focus fully on working with the ongoing Government Inquiry to ensure the affected sub-postmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve.”
She was CEO at the Post Office from 2012 to 2019 during the period in which reports of a faulty IT system at the organisation were not investigated. The Fujitsu-designed IT system resulted in false allegations of theft and false accounting.
The court of appeal on Friday quashed the convictions, saying the Post Office knew of the faults in the system yet continued to pursue prosecutions against employees. The prosecutions were pursued under Vennells’ leadership.
She had already announced she was stepping back from her duties as an Anglican priest and has quit roles with the NHS and Cabinet Office.
Vennells had won plaudits for her seven-year tenure at the organisation after she turned around a £120 million-a-year lossmaking business into a profit making one. She was reportedly paid a total of £5 million and got a CBE for “services to the Post Office and to charity”.
However, her reputation now lies in tatters, with subpostmasters and mistresses talking about her the false convictions ruined their lives and, in some cases, led to prison sentences.