Paula Vennells instructed to not make Post Office entrance web page information | EUROtoday

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The Post Office dropped a wide-ranging evaluate into the convictions of sub-postmasters over fears it will make “front page news”.

Paula Vennells, the previous Post Office boss, had instructed in 2013 that convictions going again 10 years could possibly be scrutinised.

But in an electronic mail revealed on the inquiry into the Horizon IT scandal on Thursday, ex-Post Office media chief, Mark Davies, instructed Ms Vennells that it will “fuel the story and turn it into something bigger than it is”.

Mr Vennells replied on the time that she would take her PR adviser’s “steer” however admitted on the inquiry such a evaluate might have “avoided a lost decade” by way of discovering miscarriages of justice.

On a second day of questions, Ms Vennells was grilled a few report by forensic accountants Second Sight which was revealed on 8 July, 2013 and flagged up bugs within the Horizon IT system.

The Post Office had beforehand insisted that Horizon – which is accountancy software program utilized by sub-postmasters of their branches – was sturdy.

In an electronic mail to colleagues previous to the report’s publication, Ms Vennells made options to deal with issues of campaigners together with Alan Bates and Lord Arbuthnot concerning the security of earlier Horizon convictions.

This included reviewing all convictions for false accounting stretching again as much as 10 years “in the light of the Second Sight findings”.

Mr Davis stated: “If we say publicly that we will look at past cases… we will open this up very significantly into front page news. In media terms it becomes mainstream, very high profile.”

Ms Vennells responded: “You were right to call this out, and I will take your steer, no issue.”

Lead counsel for the inquiry, Jason Beer KC, requested Ms Vennells requested if this meant that she took the recommendation of Mr Davis to not look again additional into previous circumstances.

Ms Vennells started to reply, saying “I really don’t remember it relating to the decision” prompting groans from the general public gallery the place former sub-postmasters and postmistresses had been watching proceedings.

This sparked a uncommon intervention by Sir Wyn Williams, chairman of the inquiry, asking for calm.

Mr Beer stated that had the thought been enforce, it could have “avoided a lost decade” by way of discovering miscarriages of justice.

“It may well have done,” conceded Ms Vennells.

Hundreds of sub-postmasters and postmistresses had been convicted for offences together with theft and false accounting on the energy of defective Horizon knowledge. Money was flagged as being lacking from Post Office accounts, when in actuality, it wasn’t.

From 1999 to 2015, there have been 983 UK convictions – the vast majority of which had been prosecuted by the Post Office itself, which is owned by the federal government.

A smaller variety of circumstances had been prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Ms Vennells admitted on Wednesday that she didn’t know till 2012 that it was the Post Office and never exterior our bodies that had been prosecuting sub-postmasters.

She joined the agency in 2007 and was promoted to managing director three years later.

So far solely 103 sub-postmasters have had their convictions overturned.

Sub-postmasters had been required to repay the supposedly lacking funds and lots of had been nonetheless prosecuted. Some went to jail and lots of had been ruined financially.

Ms Vennells stated that Mr Davies was making an attempt to “minimise misinterpretation and exaggeration in the media” because of the Post Office considering on the time that there had solely been a small variety of potential issues with convictions.

Mr Beer stated the thought of not wanting again at previous convictions as a result of it might generate entrance web page information was “a grossly improper perspective”, to which Ms Vennells replied: “Yes, it is.”

She added that she would “never” have taken the recommendation of only one colleague on this.

Speaking to the BBC in a break within the proceedings, former sub-postmaster Jo Hamilton stated the choice to not go forward with a evaluate was “a deliberate missed opportunity”.

Former sub-postmaster Seema Misra, who was despatched to jail whereas pregnant, added that she thought it was proof of a “cover-up”.