Paula Vennells, ex-Post Office chief, decides to give up CBE award following Horizon controversy.

Paula Vennells, the former CEO of the Post Office during the prosecution of numerous employees, has announced that she will give back her honour.

After facing pressure for several days, Vennells released a statement stating that she would return the CBE awarded to her in the 2019 New Year Honours List immediately.

On Tuesday, she expressed her apologies for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families. She acknowledged that their lives were destroyed by false accusations and wrongful prosecution due to the Horizon accounting software system.

The miscarriage of justice gained attention following the airing of an ITV drama, with over 100 new potential victims of the Post Office scandal reaching out to lawyers.

Only 93 of the 900 convictions related to accounting “shortfalls” have been overturned thus far. Additionally, 2,417 settlements have been made to compensate for personal injury, distress and inconvenience, harassment, loss of reputation, and bankruptcy.

Politicians are facing increasing demands to assist the remaining post office operators whose convictions are deemed unsafe.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk informed MPs on Tuesday that he is considering introducing a bill to overturn the remaining 800 convictions. He referred to the bill as a “simple bill.”

In response to a question from Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative former cabinet minister, Chalk stated, “The suggestion he made is receiving acting consideration. I expect to be able to make further announcements shortly.”

The ongoing inquiry into the Post Office scandal will soon start its third year of hearings.

In her statement, Vennells affirmed her support and willingness to cooperate with the inquiry. She expects to provide her testimony in the coming months.

She maintained her silence thus far, deeming it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry is ongoing and before her oral evidence is provided. However, she is aware of the calls from sub-postmasters and others to return her CBE.

After listening to these calls, Vennells confirmed her decision to return her CBE immediately.

A government source stated that Vennells’ decision to return her CBE was the right thing to do. Previously, Downing Street had indicated that Chancellor Rishi Sunak would strongly support the honours forfeiture committee if it chose to review the award.

Vennells emphasized that her focus remains on assisting the inquiry. She stated that she will refrain from making any further public comments until the conclusion of the inquiry.

As the chief executive of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, Vennells led an organization that consistently denied any issues with Horizon and pursued prosecutions against numerous post office operators.

Many MPs in the House of Commons urged the government to take action, with Chalk acknowledging that exceptional measures were necessary.

He stated, “These were truly exceptional circumstances. When I was a backbencher, I was on the record as saying this is the most serious miscarriage of justice since the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six. But the clue is there were four in the Guildford case, there were six in the Birmingham case. We are talking about hundreds.

It is truly exceptional, it is truly unprecedented, and it will need an appropriate resolution.”

Sir Bob Neill, the Conservative chair of the Commons justice committee, suggested that Chalk consult senior judges if the government were to introduce a bill to overturn all Post Office convictions. The consultation would ensure that the normal means of expediting and grouping appeals could not provide justice within an acceptable timeframe.

Chalk confirmed that the government respects the judiciary and would only legislate if all alternative options had been exhausted.

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