Post Office scandal: Petition to strip Paula Vennells of CBE signed by half a million people | Business News

More than half a million people have signed a petition calling for the former Post Office boss to have her CBE taken away over the Horizon scandal.

Paula Vennells oversaw the organisation while it routinely denied there were problems with its Horizon IT system.

Demands for her honour to be removed have reemerged after ITV aired a new drama into the scandal, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which tells how former subpostmasters and subpostmistresses were held liable by the Post Office for financial discrepancies thrown up by its computerised accounting system.

Their pursuit led to more than 700 prosecutions, criminal convictions and, in some cases, prison sentences.

A public inquiry into the scandal is ongoing.

Ms Vennells later said she was “truly sorry” for the “suffering” caused to sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences.

From 1,000 signatures to 350,000 in days

The ITV show has led to a surge of sympathy for the victims of the scandal and a rapid rise in the number of people signing the online petition, which was set up in 2021.

On Monday, when the first part was aired, it had about 1,000 signatures. By the time the final episode was broadcast on Thursday, the total had leapt past 350,000. So far, more than 570,000 people have signed it.

38 Degrees, the campaign group behind the petition, said that “many signatories [were] saying they’d been inspired to join the call by watching the drama,” which “brought the long-running scandal to the attention of millions of people”.

Robin Priestley, the group’s campaigns director, said in a statement: “Paula Vennells keeping her CBE while many victims of the Horizon Scandal are still waiting for justice flies in the face of the fairer country we all want to see.

“The huge surge of public support for this campaign in the aftermath of Mr Bates vs the Post Office makes that very clear.”

Read more:
The true story behind the drama on Horizon IT scandal
What is the Post Office scandal?

The prime minister on Thursday declined to say whether she should lose her honour.

“There’s an independent process for honours forfeiture, which is done by an independent committee, so that’s a separate process from government,” Rishi Sunak said.

“But, more generally, my job is to make sure that we’re putting in place the compensation schemes and all those people who were awfully treated, suffered an appalling miscarriage of justice, get the justice that they deserve, and that’s what we’re delivering.”

Sir Keir Starmer told ITV News: “Whether she [Ms Vennells] hands back her award is really a matter for her.

“But I do think there’s a more important point in many senses here, compensation for these victims is overdue.”