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Former UK post office boss to return CBE after fallout

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells is to hand back her CBE following the fallout of the Horizon IT scandal which led to the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of subpostmasters.

The former chief executive, who ran the Post Office while it routinely denied there was a problem with its Horizon IT system, was appointed a CBE in December 2018.

A CBE, which stands for Commander of the British Empire, is an honour given by the country to those who lead in a role at a national level.

It is one of the top medals awarded in the UK.

Ms Vennells’ decision comes after demands for her to return the honour intensified after an ITV drama returned the widespread miscarriage of justice to the spotlight.

In a statement, she 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.

“I am, however, aware of the calls from subpostmasters 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.

“I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the Inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded.”

A Government source said Paula Vennells effectively handing back her CBE was “the right thing to do”.

Downing Street had previously said Rishi Sunak would “strongly support” the Honours Forfeiture Committee if it decided to look at stripping the award.

And Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake had previously said she should consider voluntarily giving up the honour.

Former subpostmistress Jo Hamilton has said she is “glad” Ms Vennells has handed her medal, adding: “It’s a shame it took just a million people to cripple her conscience.”

Ms Hamilton, who was wrongfully convicted in 2008 of stealing thousands of pounds from the village shop in South Warnborough, Hampshire, told the PA news agency: “It shows the people have spoken – about everything really.

“It’s not just about her CBE, it’s about how disgusting the whole thing is.

“We’re all sick and tired of people taking money, being paid exorbitant amounts of money, and politicians taking absolutely no notice of you whatsoever… I think the people are just sick of it.”

She added: “I’m glad she’s given it back.

“It’s a shame it took just a million people to cripple her conscience.”

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