Put right the suffering of those sent to prison

I SEE that former Post Office boss, Paula Vennells, has stepped down from Morrisons and Dunelm following the Court of Appeal decision to overturn the convictions of 39 sub-postmasters, taking the total to 51 quashed convictions with a further 22 under review and others pending in Scotland.

More than 700 people have been prosecuted for fraud based on flawed evidence from the faulty Post Office Horizon computer programme.

Vennells left in 2019 just before a High Court judgement slammed her management of the organisation.

She departed with bonuses worth around £2.2million and during a 7-year stint received an astonishing £4.5million. Hard to believe it’s a business wholly owned by government.

So far nobody at the Post Office or Fujitsu, who developed the computer system, has been held accountable. We, the taxpayers, will pick up a bill of around £350 million in compensation for a monumental miscarriage of justice.

It will doubtless lead to more redundancies and closures and won’t put right the suffering of those sent to prison, those whose lives have been wrecked or the heartbreak felt by those whose innocent loved ones died before their names could be cleared.

The role of a sub-postmaster isn’t easy, it involves hard work, long hours and responsibility far greater than the rewards. I know because my brother in law used to do the job. Post Offices provide a vital public service but the people who work there aren’t well treated by those at the top.

They’re regarded as expendable little men and women who can be thrown to the wolves, especially when the alternative means exposing the incompetence of those in charge.

We live in a time when nobody in government takes responsibility, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that others behave similarly.

Some will praise Ms Vennells for stepping down from her lucrative directorships and position at the Church of England. I’d have more respect if she handed back the multi-million pay off and the CBE for services to the Post Office.

But then, there’s a lot of people in public life, right now, who should be handing things back.

Steve McCabe MP column for Birmingham Mail

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