Inquiry Reveals Paula Vennells’ Email as Catalyst for Post Office Horizon Cult

Former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells sent out an email to address a Computer Weekly investigation into subpostmasters’ difficulties with the Horizon computer system, according to a former executive. Testifying at the public inquiry into the Post Office Horizon scandal, David Pardoe, a former security executive at the Post Office, stated that there was a “Horizon defence piece” within the organization that repeatedly asserted the system’s reliability. Pardoe acknowledged that he may have been kept in the dark about bugs and defects in Horizon and approved the prosecution of subpostmasters without that knowledge. Over 900 subpostmasters were prosecuted based on evidence from the flawed Horizon system, with 96 wrongful convictions overturned so far and more expected. The scandal has cost UK taxpayers over £1bn for compensation and the ongoing inquiry. Pardoe recalled former head of Post Office security John Scott affirming that Horizon was dependable, and there was a consistent sentiment that the system was fit for purpose. He also mentioned an email from Vennells that sought to counter the media’s interest in the Horizon problems. The Post Office’s public relations team further promoted the notion that Horizon could not be responsible for unexplained accounting shortfalls. Mark Davies, the head of communications at the time, defended the system in a 2015 article, stating that the media’s reporting exaggerated the issues and did not reflect the reality.

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