Who has questions to answer over the Post Office Horizon scandal?

Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey, former Post Office CEO Paula Vennells and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer have all been mentioned as people who have questions to answer over the Horizon scandal. Credit: PA

The Horizon scandal, which resulted in more than 700 Post Office staff being wrongly convicted - and hundreds of them even jailed - has been rumbling for over two decades and crossed the desks of many people who intervened.

For years it's been labelled one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history, but a fresh light has been shone on the scandal following the release of ITV drama Mr Bates vs the Post Office and it finally seems redress may soon be delivered.

Some 736 sub-postmasters and mistresses were convicted of fraud and theft between 1999 and 2015, due to accounting errors created by the Horizon IT system which were blamed on staff.

Sub-postmasters raised issues with Horizon - which made it look like sub-postmasters were stealing cash - as early as 2003 but by 2012 it was so clear there could be problems with the system that the Post Office launched a review to satisfy complaining politicians.

By 2015 - when hundreds of sub-postmasters and mistresses banded together to sue the Post Office - the company, which had apparently been aware of issues with Horizon for years, stopped prosecuting.

And while 550 sub-postmasters successfully sued the Post Office in 2019, being awarded £58 million in compensation, only 93 convictions related to Horizon have now been overturned.

It appears major progress on exonerating all 736 people wrongly convicted may soon be made, with the government now giving "active consideration" to legislation which would quash all convictions.

But Britons now want to know, after watching Mr Bates vs the Post Office, why nothing was done sooner.

No one has been held to account over the scandal, but people are angry with the Post Office, Fujitsu (which built the Horizon software) and a number of politicians.

So who are the big names who could have intervened?

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by the Post Office IT Scandal - you can get in touch with your story. Email our specialist team - investigations@itv.com .

  • Paula Vennells

Paula Vennells, played by Lia Williams in the TV drama, was chief executive officer of Post Office Limited in a crucial stage of the Horizon scandal, from 2012 to 2019.

She left the company just before a damaging High Court ruling in 2019 that slammed the Post Office over the scandal. She was given a £400,000 payout.

The former CEO, who was given a CBE in 2019 for "services to the Post Office and to charity", decided to hand back the honour after more than 1.2 million signed a petition demanding the government take it away.

She said she is "truly sorry for the devastation caused to the sub-postmasters and their families".

  • Sir Ed Davey

The current leader of the Liberal Democrats, Sir Ed Davey, was previously the Post Office minister under David Cameron's coalition government, between 2010 and 2012.

He's recently accused the Post Office of lying to him on an “industrial scale” as he comes under pressure over the scandal.

He told broadcasters on Monday: “I wish I had known then what we all know now, the Post Office was lying on an industrial scale to me and other ministers.”

Sir Ed said it was “clear they were all lying to me” as he put the concerns of campaigning former sub-postmaster Alan Bates to officials.

  • Angela van den Bogerd

Angela van den Bogerd, who is played by Coronation Street star Katherine Kelly in the TV programme, worked for the Post Office for 33 years and held various senior roles before departing in 2020.

The businesswoman was reportedly in charge of handling complaints about Horizon from 2010 and sat on a working group dedicated to dealing with the scandal since 2014.

Rt Hon Justice Fraser, who oversaw court hearings on the scandal in 2019, criticised Ms Van den Bogerd's testimony, saying she "did not give me frank evidence, and sought to obfuscate matters, and mislead me".

After leaving the Post Office she was appointed as the Football Association of Wales's new "head of people" but was forced to leave months later after pressure from those affected by the Horizon scandal.

  • Tim Parker

Former Post Office chairman Tim Parker was the man whose name appeared on the company's apology statement in 2020 when several former sub-postmasters had their convictions overturned.

He became chairman of the Post Office in 2015, around the time the company stopped the wrongful prosecutions, and stepped down in 2022.

Apologising in 2020, he said: “I am sincerely sorry on behalf of the Post Office for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters.

“Post Office is resetting its relationship with postmasters with reforms that prevent such past events ever happening again.

“All postmasters entitled to claim civil compensation because of their convictions being overturned [should be] recompensed as quickly as possible.”

  • Fujitsu leaders

Japanese tech firm Fujitsu is the creator of Horizon but has so far navigated the scandal relatively unscathed and is still being awarded government contracts worth dozens of millions.

It has won over 150 government contracts since the Post Office stopped prosecuting sub-postmasters in 2015 and is still one of the government's 'Strategic Suppliers', which typically means it receives over £100 million in contracts per year.

But on Tuesday, Downing Street said Fujitsu will be “held accountable” legally or financially if the public inquiry finds it blundered in the Horizon scandal.

The PM's spokesman said: “Our position is that once the inquiry is able to establish the facts and sets them out, those who are found responsible will be held to account, whether that is legally or financially, but again, I can’t prejudge that independent work.”

  • Sir Keir Starmer

Former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has said Keir Starmer has "serious questions" to answer over why he didn't intervene in the Horizon scandal while director of public prosecutions from 2008 to 2013.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which the Labour leader formerly ran, does not have a role in private prosecutions, a Labour source has told ITV News.

But he could have intervened in the prosecutions if he had concerns with them.

Speaking in the Commons, Justice Minister Mike Freer confirmed the CPS could take over a private prosecution, and "may end or discontinue a prosecution if it does not believe it should brought in the first place".

Sir Keir has not responded directly and the Labour Party has been asked to comment.

The Labour leader did however say the power to prosecute "should be taken out of the hands of the Post Office and given to the Crown Prosecution Service".

He added: “I used to run the Crown Prosecution Service, we’ve prosecuted for other departments, we can do it here – that should be done straight away."

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