The former chief executive of the Post Office, Paula Vennells, has resigned as a non-executive board member of high street retailers Dunelm and Morrisons in the wake of the subpostmaster miscarriage of justice scandal.
The moves came as the former Post Office boss said she is “truly sorry” for the “suffering” caused to subpostmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences.
Ms Vennells, who is an associate minister in the Diocese of St Albans, issued the apology on Sunday as she announced that she would be stepping back from her regular church duties in the wake of the Horizon scandal.
Hundreds of subpostmasters were prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system, which had “bugs, defects and errors” from the very outset.
On Friday, 39 former subpostmasters who were convicted and even jailed based on Horizon data had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal.
In brief updates to the London Stock Exchange, both companies said she would be leaving the roles, which include responsibilities for setting executive pay and upholding corporate responsibility.
She took home £89,000 in fees from Morrisons and £30,000 from Dunelm in the past year, according to the latest published annual accounts.
Dunelm chairman Andy Harrison said: “We respect Paula’s decision to step down from the board and I would like to thank her for the positive contribution she has made to the business since her appointment in September 2019.”
Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson said: “Paula has been an insightful, effective and hardworking non-executive director, and, on behalf of the board, I want to thank her for her significant contribution over the last five years.”
Ms Vennells, who was Post Office chief executive from 2012 to 2019, said she would be stepping back from her regular parochial duties following the ruling.
Ms Vennells, who was made a CBE for “services to the Post Office and to charity” is an associate minister in Bromham, Oakley and Stagsden, Bedfordshire.
The diocese said she had informed the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev Alan Smith, who is the son of a former postmaster.
In a statement, Ms Vennells said: “I am truly sorry for the suffering caused to the 39 subpostmasters 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 subpostmasters and wider public get the answers they deserve.”