To be informed: Alan Bates Criticizes Paula Vennells’ Evidence in Post Office Inquiry

Alan Bates, the outspoken campaigner and former sub-postmaster, has recently voiced strong criticisms regarding the evidence presented by Paula Vennells, the former Chief Executive Officer of the Post Office, in the ongoing inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal. This inquiry seeks to address the miscarriages of justice that saw over 700 sub-postmasters wrongly accused and prosecuted for financial discrepancies due to flaws in the Post Office’s Horizon computer system. Bates’ pointed remarks underscore a deep-seated frustration and highlight the gravity of the situation, as the scandal has not only affected individuals but also eroded public trust in the Post Office.

Background of the Horizon IT Scandal

The Horizon IT system, introduced in the late 1990s, was intended to modernize the Post Office’s accounting processes. However, the system was plagued by errors that led to significant financial discrepancies. These discrepancies were wrongfully attributed to sub-postmasters, resulting in prosecutions for theft, fraud, and false accounting. Many of those accused were financially ruined, and some were even imprisoned. It took years of campaigning and legal battles before the true cause of these discrepancies—the faults in the Horizon system—was acknowledged.

Paula Vennells’ Role

Paula Vennells served as CEO of the Post Office from 2012 to 2019, a period during which many of these wrongful prosecutions occurred. Under her leadership, the Post Office continued to prosecute sub-postmasters despite growing evidence that the Horizon system was fundamentally flawed. Vennells has since faced intense scrutiny and criticism for her handling of the situation, and her recent testimony in the public inquiry was highly anticipated.

Paula Vennells

Alan Bates’ Criticism

Alan Bates, who founded the Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) and has been a relentless advocate for those wronged by the Horizon scandal, has been particularly critical of Vennells’ evidence. Bates argues that Vennells’ testimony lacked transparency and failed to take full accountability for the devastating impact the scandal had on individuals and their families.

Alan Bates
Alan Bates

In his criticism, Bates pointed out several key issues:

  1. Lack of Accountability: Bates asserts that Vennells’ evidence was characterized by a lack of personal accountability. He argues that Vennells often deflected responsibility onto other parts of the organization or cited her lack of detailed knowledge about specific cases, which, according to Bates, is unacceptable given her role as CEO.
  2. Insufficient Apology: While Vennells did offer an apology during her testimony, Bates and many affected sub-postmasters feel that it was insufficient. They believe that her apology lacked sincerity and did not adequately address the profound suffering experienced by those wrongfully accused.
  3. Inadequate Oversight: Bates also criticized Vennells for failing to ensure proper oversight and due diligence within the organization. He contends that as CEO, Vennells should have taken more proactive steps to investigate the growing number of allegations regarding the Horizon system’s flaws rather than continuing to rely on its erroneous data.
  4. Impact on Lives: Bates highlighted the human cost of the scandal, emphasizing that the repercussions went beyond financial loss. Many sub-postmasters suffered severe emotional and psychological distress, with some even facing mental health issues and suicide. Bates argues that Vennells’ testimony did not adequately acknowledge the depth of this impact.

The Path Forward

The criticisms from Bates are not just about seeking justice for past wrongs but also about ensuring that such a travesty does not occur again. He advocates for comprehensive reform within the Post Office, including:

  • Improved Accountability Mechanisms: Implementing robust systems to ensure accountability at all levels of the organization.
  • Transparent Operations: Enhancing transparency in the Post Office’s operations to restore public trust.
  • Support for Victims: Providing adequate compensation and support for those affected by the Horizon scandal.

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‘Selective amnesia’: Alan Bates criticizes Paula Vennells Post Office inquiry evidence


Alan Bates’ criticism of Paula Vennells’ evidence in the Post Office inquiry underscores the enduring impact of the Horizon IT scandal and the need for systemic change. The inquiry is a pivotal step towards justice, but for many, the journey is far from over. Bates’ unwavering commitment to holding those responsible to account and advocating for the victims highlights the ongoing struggle for truth and restitution. As the inquiry progresses, the hope is that it will not only provide answers but also pave the way for meaningful reforms that prevent such injustices in the future.

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