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Paula Vennells giving up CBE following backlash from Mr Bates vs the Post Office

Over a million people had signed a petition calling for the Post Office boss to be stripped of her CBE


Paula Vennells on a visit to a post office© Getty
Megan Bull
TV Writer
January 9, 2024
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Former Post Office CEO, Paula Vennells will hand over her CBE with immediate effect. Following ongoing backlash from viewers of the hit ITV series, Mr Bates vs the Post Office, the 65-year-old – who was involved in the Horizon IT scandal – has confirmed the news. 

WATCH: Have you watched Mr Bates vs the Post Office yet?

Releasing an official statement, Vennells said: "I continue to support and focus on co-operating with the inquiry and expect to be giving evidence in the coming months. I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

Close up of Paula Vennells© Getty
Paula Vennells was the head of the Post Office at the time of the Horizon IT scandal

"I am, however, aware of the calls from sub-postmasters and others to return my CBE. I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect. I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.

She concluded: "I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded."

Prior to her announcement, a petition calling for Vennells to be stripped of her CBE was signed by over a million people, most of whom had tuned into ITV's new drama, Mr Bates vs the Post Office

A shocking true story, the series recalls how hundreds of innocent subpostmasters working in the UK were wrongly accused and later charged with theft, fraud, and false accounting thanks to a malfunctioning IT system. 

Toby Jones as Alan Bates in Mr Bates vs the Post Office© ITV
Toby Jones as Alan Bates in Mr Bates vs the Post Office

Focusing on Alan Bates (Toby Jones), a subpostmaster from Wales, the drama sheds light on his unwavering activism, after making it his mission to get justice in a legal battle that took ten years and cost millions of pounds. 

For those yet to watch the drama, it was in 1999 that the Post Office introduced a new electronic accounting system called Horizon. The system had glitches in its account software which wrongly detected financial shortfalls and caused discrepancies worth thousands of pounds.

MORE: Mr Bates vs the Post Office star Toby Jones' sacrifice to bring drama to TV screens

READ: Mr Bates star Toby Jones' famous family and home life explored

Years later, Bates and five other claimants took the Post Office to the High Court and in 2019, a judgement ruled that postmasters were prosecuted based on data from the defective Horizon IT system. 

So far, only 93 convictions have been overturned, with many people still waiting to have their names cleared and to receive compensation. 

Just last week the real Alan Bates appeared on Good Morning Britain, where he praised the cast and crew of Mr Bates vs the Post Office. "I think the actors have done a wonderful job in it and they've really portrayed a lot of the suffering that people have gone through so well," he said. 

Bates is yet to publicly comment on the decision to strip Vennells of her CBE. 

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