Top Post Office Official Surrenders Amid Theft Controversy

In reaction to growing outrage over an erroneous accusation of hundreds of postmasters for stealing due to an error in the computer system, the former director of Britain’s state-owned Post Office said Tuesday that she would return a royal accolade.

Since the computers at the Post Office incorrectly indicated that funds were missing from their stores from 1999 to 2015, the British government is contemplating granting a blanket amnesty to over 700 branch managers found guilty of theft or fraud. The underlying perpetrator was Fujitsu, a Japanese technology company, and its flawed accounting system, Horizon.

Former head of the Postal Service Paula Vennells has announced her intention to resign from her position as Commander of the Order of the British Empire, an honor she was bestowed in 2018. With almost 1.2 million signatures, an online petition has been created to remove the award from her.

It has been going on since 2022, and Vennells has continued “to support and concentrate on cooperating with” a public investigation into the controversy.

In theory, Vennells may keep the CBE title until the Honors Forfeiture Committee decides to take it away, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has indicated he will support.

For a long time, the Postal Service insisted that Horizon data was accurate and falsely accused branch managers of dishonesty. After being coerced into paying the firm vast amounts of money, many people were left destitute and even put to jail. Many took their own lives.

Last week, a TV documentary called “Mr. Bates vs. the Post Office” aired, igniting fresh fury over the long-simmering controversy. The story follows the heroic efforts of Toby Jones’s branch manager, Alan Bates, for two decades as he sought justice for the postal employees who had been harmed.

The victims’ and their attorneys’ years-long fight finally paid off in 2021 when the Court of Appeal overturned 39 convictions. The Postal Service “knew there were substantial questions regarding the dependability” of Horizon, and they had made “egregious” mistakes in their inquiry and disclosure.

The Post Office reports that 93 postal workers have had their convictions reversed, but still more have not been cleared.

No one from Fujitsu or the Post Office has been arrested or faced criminal charges so far, even though police have launched a fraud investigation into the Post Office.