Ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells quits Morrisons and Dunelm boards

Court of appeal quashed wrongful convictions of dozens of staff at her former employer

Last modified on Mon 26 Apr 2021 03.23 EDT

Rev Paula Vennells, the former head of the Post Office, has resigned from the boards of the supermarket chain Morrisons and retailer Dunelm after the court of appeal quashed the wrongful convictions of dozens of staff at her former employer.

Vennells, who ran the Post Office between 2012 and 2019, pursued prosecutions against hundreds of subpostmasters, accusing them of theft and false accounting.

The court of appeal quashed the convictions of 39 employees on Friday, saying the Post Office knew there were faults in the Horizon accounting system it used but continued to pursue prosecutions against its employees.

In a statement on Monday, Andrew Higginson, the chairman of Morrisons, said: “Paula has been an insightful, effective and hardworking non-executive director, and, on behalf of the board, I want to thank her for her significant contribution over the last five years,” he said.

The Dunelm chairman, Andy Harrison, said he respected Vennells’ decision to quit.

“We respect Paula’s decision to step down from the board and I would like to thank her for the positive contribution she has made to the business since her appointment in September 2019,” he said.

Vennells has also stepped back from her duties as a minister at the Church of St Owen near Bedford, in the diocese of St Albans, calling the scandal a “distraction”. She has already quit roles with the NHS and Cabinet Office.

“I have therefore stepped back with immediate effect from regular parish ministry, and intend to focus fully on working with the ongoing government inquiry to ensure the affected subpostmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve,” she said.

Vennells, who on Sunday said she was “truly sorry” for the suffering caused to Post Office staff, made £5m while running the business and was awarded a CBE for “services to the Post Office and to charity”.

Ten months after her departure, the Post Office reached a settlement with 555 workers over the problems with the Fujitsu-developed IT system, admitting it “got things wrong”. However, the compensation amounted to only about £20,000 each.

The company was accused of ignoring suggestions that Horizon was faulty while aggressively pursuing convictions.

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