Shamed ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells admits she 'did not always take the right path' as she's grilled at Horizon scandal inquiry

Shamed Paula Vennells admitted she 'did not always take the right path' as she was interrogated by lawyers for victims of the Post Office scandal.

Ms Vennells, who was chief executive of the organisation from 2012 to 2019, said there were 'no words I can find today that will make the sorrow and what people have gone through any better.'

Her explanation was dismissed as 'humbug' by Ed Henry KC, lawyer for some of the Post Office victims.

Mr Henry immediately launched into Ms Vennells at the inquiry into the IT scandal today, asking her: 'There were so many forks in the road, but you always took the wrong path didn't you?'

Shamed Paula Vennells admitted she 'did not always take the right path' as she was interrogated by lawyers for victims of the Post Office scandal

Shamed Paula Vennells admitted she 'did not always take the right path' as she was interrogated by lawyers for victims of the Post Office scandal

Ms Vennell replied: 'It was an extraordinarily complex undertaking and the Post Office and I didn't always take the right path.'

Mr Henry replied: 'You exercised power with no thought of the consequences of your actions, despite those consequences staring you in the face.'

Ms Vennells replied: 'I believed that we were doing the right things, clearly that was not always the case.'

The inquiry previously heard how Ms Vennells fought to protect the reputation of the Post Office as it came under mounting pressure to investigate allegations of unsafe convictions by workers, MPs and the press.

In an email she said that she would take the advice of spin doctor Mark Davies, the organisation's director of communications in 2013, after he warned that the Post Office risked negative coverage if it began looking into historical cases, amid mounting pressure from campaigners, MPs and the press to probe fully.

Ms Vennells, who was chief executive of the organisation from 2012 to 2019, said there were 'no words I can find today that will make the sorrow and what people have gone through any better'

Ms Vennells, who was chief executive of the organisation from 2012 to 2019, said there were 'no words I can find today that will make the sorrow and what people have gone through any better'

The public inquiry into the scandal was given a further glimpse into her determination to protect the reputation of the Post Office when she revealed to colleagues in an email that it was 'a goal' of hers 'that all press, even local press', were 'scoured for negative comment and refuted'.

Reflecting on her time in charge, she told the inquiry she should have asked software giant Fujitsu for reassurances that problems with its Horizon software had been dealt with when given the 'world-changing information' there were bugs in the system.

She also conceded miscarriages of justice could have been discovered sooner if the initial plan for forensic accountants Second Sight to properly scrutinise several convictions had been carried out, rather than just two or three.

Ms Vennells wept when questioned about subpostmasters being wrongly convicted, including Martin Griffiths who killed himself after being hounded by the organisation's investigation unit. She became emotional again as she apologised for misleading MPs who were looking into constituents' complaints about the faulty software.

And she fought back tears when recalling reading 'disturbing' evidence of the impact of the scandal on Post Office workers.

The 65-year-old said her mistakes would 'live with me for ever.' But she insisted she did not think there had been any miscarriages of justice until long after she left the organisation in 2019 - having previously told MPs the Post Office had 'never lost a case'.

Mr Henry, appearing to allude to Ms Vennells' role as an ordained Anglican priest, said: 'You preach compassion but you don't practise it.'

During a combative exchange, minutes into the third day of Ms Vennells' evidence, Mr Henry said the 65-year-old had 'no-one to blame but yourself'.

Ms Vennells said: 'Where I made mistakes and where I made the wrong calls … where I had information and I made the wrong calls, yes of course.'

Mr Henry said: 'You are responsible for your own downfall aren't you?'

Ms Vennells replied: 'From when the Court of Appeal passed its judgement, I lost all the employment that I have had, and since that time I have only worked on this inquiry.'

She also said she had refused to engage with the Press, perhaps to her detriment.

Mr Henry said: 'I suggest to you that you continue to live in a cloud of denial, and it persists even today, because you have given, in 750-odd pages (of her witness statement), a craven and self-serving account haven't you?

'I didn't know, nobody told me, I can't remember, I wasn't shown this, I relied on my lawyers'.'

Ms Vennells replied: 'I have tried to do this to the very best of my ability.'

Lawyer Mr Henry said: 'Whatever you did was deliberate, considered and calculated. No-one deceived you, no-one misled you. You set the agenda and tone for the business didn't you?'

Ms Vennells, who remained calm throughout, replied: 'I was the chief executive, I didn't set the agenda for the work of the scheme and the way the legal and IT parts of it worked.'

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