The former Post Office chief executive has resigned from her roles at Dunelm and Morrisons in the wake of the postmaster miscarriage of justice scandal.
Paula Vennells who was a non-executive board member at the high street retailers, said she is “truly sorry” for the “suffering” caused to those who were wrongly convicted of offences.
Ms Vennells, who is an associate minister in the Diocese of St Albans, issued the apology on Sunday as she announced she would be stepping back from her regular church duties.
What happened at the Court of Appeal
Hundreds of subpostmasters were prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system, which had “bugs, defects and errors” from the very outset.
Last week, 39 former subpostmasters who were convicted and even jailed based on Horizon data had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
Ms Vennells, who was the organisation’s chief executive from 2012 to 2019, said she would be stepping back from her regular parochial duties following the ruling.
Ms Vennells, who was made a CBE for “services to the Post Office and to charity” is an associate minister in Bromham, Oakley and Stagsden, Bedfordshire.
What Paula Vennells said
The diocese said she had informed the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, who is the son of a former postmaster.
In a statement, Ms Vennells said: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 subpostmasters as a result of their convictions which were overturned last week.
“It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken in the Diocese of St Albans and in the parishes I serve.
“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.”
Bishop’s ‘distress’ over miscarriage of justice
The Bishop of St Albans said it was “right” that Ms Vennells “stands back from public ministry” following the ruling.
He said: “As the son of a former subpostmaster I express my distress at the miscarriage of justice that so many subpostmasters have suffered.
“They and their families are in my thoughts and prayers. I am glad that these and earlier appeals have overturned convictions that have been found to be unjust.”
Ms Vennells left the Post Office in 2019, months before a damning High Court judgment in a civil claim brought against it by hundreds of former subpostmasters.
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