The Rev Paula Vennells, the former head of the Post Office, has stood down as a governor of Bedford School following a high-profile court case, described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in modern legal history.
She has also stepped back from her duties at the Church of St Owen in Bromham where she is a minister, saying she is working with the Government enquiry to “ensure the affected sub-postmasters get the answers they deserve.”
Ms Vennells was in charge of the Post Office from 2012 until 2019, during which hundreds of subpostmasters were accused of theft and false accounting – later proved to be due to a glitch in the Horizon accountancy software.
Some of the employees were accused of stealing tens of thousands of pounds and served prison sentences.
Following Ms Vennells’ departure in 2019, the Post Office agreed a settlement with 555 employees who had been falsely accused.
39 prosecutions were overturned in the court of appeal on Friday (23 April), on the basis that the Post Office knew there were glitches in the computerised accounting system it used but nevertheless continued to pursue prosecutions against its employees.
When Ms Vennells left the Post Office in 2019 she was awarded a CBE for ‘services to the Post Office and to charity.’
A statement from Sir Clive Loader, Chair of Governors at Bedford School, read: “The Rev Paula Vennells has decided to step down from her position on the governing body of Bedford School, recognising that her involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from her important work undertaken here at the school.”
Sir Clive said the school respected her decision and thanked her for the voluntary contribution she had made to the school since becoming Governor in 2014.
Following Friday’s court of appeal judgement, The Bishop of St Albans confirmed that Rev Paula Vennells had stepped back from her duties at the Church of St Owen in Bromham.
The Rt Revd Dr Alan Smith expressed his distress at the miscarriage of justice that so many post office employees have suffered, particularly as his own father was a sub-postmaster.
In a statement, he said: “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
“I am aware that there are still legal processes and inquiries to take place during which it is right that Ms Vennells stands back from public ministry.”
The Revd Paula Vennells said: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 sub-postmasters 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 sub-postmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve.”