Vennells Day 1: the Five Things we learned

Vennells breaks down in tears whilst giving evidence

Right then.

Not volunteering more than she had to

The fact that despite protesting several times she approached the inquiry with “integrity” in a spirit of wanting to tell the “complete truth” Paula Vennells appeared to be attempting a sleight of hand from the off.

Jason Beer KC (who asked questions on behalf of the Inquiry) reminded Vennells that in August 2023 the Inquiry wrote to her telling her that in her witness statement they would like her to: “reflect on your time at the Post Office and set out whether there was anything you would have handled differently”.

Beer took Vennells to paragraph 1801 of her witness statement, which states: “With the benefit of hindsight, there are many things I and the Post Office should have done differently. I am now reflecting with care on these matters and I will expand upon them and answer them as fully as possible when I give my evidence to the Inquiry.”

Beer was curious. “given you provided a 775-page witness statement that took seven months to write, could you not have reflected on what you could and should have done fully and differently within the witness statement?”

“Yes, I could have put more into it”, replied Vennells with a jolly, co-operative tone (which soon evaporated), “and I’m sorry if that wasn’t helpful. I read sooo many documents and worked a long time to try to prepare this.”

“Were you adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach? See what comes out in evidence? See what I’ve got to admit and then I’ll admit that.”

“No not at all Mr Beer”, replied Vennells, suddenly icy, “that’s not the way I work.”

“So…” returned Beer “why didn’t you assist us, by setting out in this document what your reflections were?”

“It was simply a matter of time”, replied Vennells.

Vennells offered to submit a written document of reflections to the Inquiry. Beer did not take her up on it.

Moya Greene 💔 Paula Vennells

Moya Greene

Paula Vennells’ boss whilst she was Post Office MD was Moya Greene, the Royal Mail Group CEO. After the Post Office separated from Royal Mail in 2012, Vennells was made Post Office CEO. The two women maintained a cordial professional relationship for many years. That all changed this January during a text exchange.

Greene had flown back into the UK and obviously seen the parliamentary hoo-ha caused by the sacking of the Post Office Chairman Henry Staunton. On 16 January this year Nick Read, the current Post Office CEO, gave evidence to the Business Select Committee.

This is the full dramatic exchange of texts:

MG: Paula, am just back in the U.K. What I have learned from Inquiry/Parliamentary committee questions is very damaging. Nick was a poor witness. Chairman gone. He will be next. When it was clear the system was at fault, the PO should have raised a red flag, stopped all proceedings, given people back their money and then tried to compensate them for the ruin this caused in their lives. M
PV: Yes I agree. This has/is taking too long Moya. The toll on everyone affected is dreadful. I hope you had a good break and are well. BW Paula
MG: I don’t know what to say. I think you knew. m
PV: No Moya, that isn’t the case. 
MG: I want to believe you. l asked you twice. I suggested you get an indépendant review reporting to you. I was afraid you were being lied to. You said system had already been reviewed multiple times. How could you not have known?
PV: Moya, the mechanism for getting to the bottom of this is the Inquiry. I’ve made it my priority to support it fully.
MG: The Post Office did not… they dragged their heels, they did not deliver docs, they did not compensate people. Paula… you appealed the Judge’s decision! I am sorry… I can’t now support you I have supported you to my detrment. I can’t support you now after what I have learned. M

Putting aside Greene’s curious teenage break-up vibe (and her possible motivations for initiating contact), Jason Beer wanted to know a little more about the central accusations. Firstly, what did Vennells know? 

“Was that an accusation that you knew about bugs, errors and defects in Horizon?” pondered Beer.
“No”, replied Vennells, “She was trying to square her memory with what she was hearing. Yeah.”
“What did you think you were denying?” asked Beer.
“I think Moya was possibly suggesting there that there was some conspiracy… and as I said I didn’t believe that was the case. She may have been saying… I was going to say about a cover-up, but that’s the same thing.”

Beer drew her attention to Greene’s other, crucial, question – how could you not have known?

“You don’t answer that question do you?” he said.

Vennells agreed she didn’t answer that question but said it was more because she was concerned about exchanging texts in the middle of the Inquiry.

So, Beer, asked, what was the answer to that question? Vennells replied:

“It’s question I have asked myself as well. I have learned some things that I didn’t know as a result of the Inquiry and I imagine we will go into some of the detail of that. I wish I had known.”

“How come you didn’t?” Beer interjected.

Vennells started blethering about the Common Issues judgment and Horizon Issues judgment in Bates v Post Office, both of which landed after Vennells left the Post Office.

Beer had to stop her again. “But why didn’t you? That’s what I’m asking. Not whether you wish you had known. It’s why didn’t you?”

Vennells tried tacking towards management information… Fujitsu… people not sharing what they knew about Horizon’s integrity and some guff about corporate memory before Jason Beer gave up:

“Cutting through this”, he said, “this [text] exchange reveals that even the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail Group, who supported you over all those years, doesn’t believe you, does she?”

Vennells said Beer should ask her. Which he or a colleague almost certainly will when Moya Greene gives evidence on 19 July.

Trying to get the dirt on Martin Griffiths

Martin Griffiths was a Subpostmaster who sadly killed himself after being hounded out of his livelihood by the Post Office.

When news of Mr Griffiths’ death came through in October 2013, Vennells offered her condolences. In an email to her senior leadership team (including her head of security, John Scott), she said the Post Office should contact the family and “look after them as much as we can and as they will allow”.

Then she set a hare running: “I know (sadly from experience in business and personally) that there is rarely a simple explanation for such deaths; even though it is often easier for those so closely affected to look for one.”

Then, the kicker: “To help me brief this properly to the Board, can you let me know what background we have on Martin and how/why this might have happened. I had heard but have yet to see a formal report, that there were previous mental health issues and potential family issues.”

Oh. Ow.

Today Beer wondered if Vennells was asking her team “to look into Mr Griffths’ records to look for information or evidence that he took his life because of mental health issues, or family issues?”

Vennells took a moment to respond. She replied: “Mr Bates had said the Post Office was to blame, and I did know from previous examples and other information that…” there was a long pause… then, suddenly: “it doesn’t matter. I simply should not have said it. I should not have used those words.”

Some might have let the matter drop there. Not Jason Beer. And that is why he is lead counsel to the Inquiry.

Beer wanted to know who told Ms Vennells about Mr Griffiths’ alleged mental health issues?

“I believed I’d also seen something in an email somewhere, but I don’t recall.” replied Vennells.
“Was it rumour?”
“No I don’t believe so”, replied Vennells.
“Can you help us any more?” pressed Beer.
Vennells couldn’t, but did tell the Inquiry: “’Rumour’ would be a very inappropriate word”.

Could this have just been a terrible, single misjudgment made in the midst of some confusion?

No. The next day, Vennells was at it again. Emailing her senior leadership team, Vennells writes:

“I possibly heard (but may be confusing with a previous case) that Martin had had some mental health issues?”

Oh, Paula.

“How do you ‘possibly‘ hear something?” asked Beer.
“I’m simply stating an uncertainty”, ventured Vennells.
“Why are you saying this at all, if you might be confusing Mr Griffiths’ case with another case?”
“I was trying to make sure that there wasn’t confusion” replied Vennells.
“You were trying to get on the front foot here, weren’t you?” asked Beer.
“No, Mr Beer, that was not the case.”
“You were tasking the team with finding out information to counter any narrative that the Post Office was to blame, weren’t you?”
Vennells denied it and said she was just after “the wider picture”.

You decide.

Angela van den Bogerd is a Wingnut


For most of the 2010s, Angela van den Bogerd was the Post Office’s main woman dealing with Subpostmaster complaints and problems. At a recent talk in Walton-on-Thames, Ian Henderson (from Second Sight) described Bogerd as bright, able, hard-working and “completely brainwashed”. That is, unable to see the Post Office could be at fault for anything.

Today we found out that Bogerd was so completely insane, even the Post Office could not trust her.

A Subpostmaster called Heydi O’Brien had a Post Office in Griffithstown, South Wales. She had been a Post Office trainer for eight years and loved it so much she bought her own branch.

In 2014, Ms O’Brien and her daughter began experiencing balancing problems, which had clearly escalated. Ms O’Brien already had some contact with van den Bogerd, but wrote to Vennells out of “sheer frustration and desperation”. The rest of O’Brien’s email (which was not shown at the hearing) details the difficulties she has been experiencing. 

Vennells gave oversight of the problem (and Angela van den Bogerd’s investigation) to her ops director Kevin Gilliland. Vennells told Gilliland: “I want to be really sure – not just on the individual case raised but as much on the issues Heydi identifies in the whole process around this.”

Vennells goes on: “Just watch that Angela doesn’t jump to any defence, or even worse assume she knows the answer (she did say to me the woman’s daughter had caused the problem). If we have been negligent in following through, we should think about how to manage it.”

Jason Beer wanted to know why Mr Gilliland was on notice to make sure that van den Bogerd didn’t “jump to any defence”.

Vennells gave a circumlocutory explanation which involved paying tribute to AvdB’s lengthy service, her “very deep understanding” and the fact she’d “come across most things”. Vennells acknowledged there was “a danger and a risk” that “people” could become “too close to something”, and might get drawn into “pattern of complacency” and “don’t necessarily see things afresh.”

Was it just AvdB’s length of service, Beer wondered, or was she “by default” a “Horizon defender”?

Vennells wondered aloud if AvdB had been “particularly defensive on something”, and noted AvdB had already started blaming Ms O’Brien’s daughter on what might be “assumptions”.

In short, AvdB could not be trusted to do a neutral evaluation. And Vennells knew it. And yet…

The remote access debacle

Jason Beer KC

The final ninety minutes of Vennells’ evidence concerned her knowledge of remote access to the Horizon system and her email to her colleagues in the days before the Business Select Committee hearing on 3 Feb 2015 . Vennells was extremely cagey throughout this discussion, seemingly triangulating her answers against what she could say today, what she said on the record in the past and the actual truth.

Her famous message (first revealed at the High Court on 21 November 2018) of 30 Jan 2015, came under the Inquiry microscope. In the email Vennells addresses remote access to the Horizon system, and asks some senior people in her team:

“What is the true answer? I hope it is that we know this is not possible and that we are able to explain why that is. I need to say ‘no it is not possible’ and that we’re sure of this because of xxx and that we know this because we’ve had the system assured.”

Beer wanted to understand why Vennells had told her staff about the answer she wanted. In something which appears to have come straight from the Sir Humphrey playbook (and don’t forget her boss Alice Perkins was a former senior civil servant), Vennells replied:

“I can remember Alice Perkins saying to me at some stage, ‘Paula, if you want to get the truth and a really clear answer from somebody, you should tell them what it is you want to say very clearly and then ask for the information that backs that up’. That was why I phrased this that way.”

Beer was agog. “That’s an odd way of going about things, isn’t it? I want to know the answer to the question. Here’s the answer to the question. Tell me I’m wrong.”

There was laughter in the room as everyone contemplated Perkins’ and Vennells’ logic. Rather than distance herself from a ploy to get the answer you wanted rather than the truth, Vennells doubled down:

“This was a very genuine attempt to be able to reassure the Select Committee”, she told Beer. “I believed this was absolutely the case. I had an obligation going before the Select Committee to be able to share the information that I knew and to be able to answer their questions correctly and this is what I was trying to ask for from the team. I was not in any way – forgive me if you’re suggesting this – trying to tell them what the answer should be.”

Beer began to have fun. “I thought you said that’s what Ms Perkins said you should do.”

Vennells floundered: “Yes, but it was not done because I necessarily knew this was the answer. This was a…”

Beer interjected: “I thought you said a moment ago you believed it to be the answer.”

Vennells clung on. “I did believe it to be the answer and so I wanted to be able to say to the Select Committee in complete truth and sincerity that it was not possible to remotely access a branch account without the Subpostmasters knowing and I wanted to be able to explain why that was the case.”

Beer wondered if the more “honest and straightforward” thing to do would be to posit the question to her colleagues: What is the true answer? and stop there.

Vennells seemed to sense people were laughing at her. With strong head-girl-in-a-strop energy, she replied: “I’m very sorry, I am giving you completely the truthful answer on this. I remember why I phrased this this way. Not because I was trying to tell people what the answer was at all, but because I was trying to get them to phrase something in a way that said, from my understanding, this is what it should be.”

Sir Wyn

I am always inclined to try to be charitable to Vennells, but she was actually a lot worse than I thought possible. Like the organisation she ran, she seems to exist in parallel to actual reality. Delusional bubbles are fine for most of us, but they can cause problems when you have real power over real peoples’ lives. Either that or she was just lying.

Finally, if you want to watch Vennells tie herself in knots trying to deal with the best-timed single word question of the day, watch the last five minutes of today’s hearing. The Inquiry chair Sir Wyn Williams picks up on the briefing Vennells was given on remote access before the Select Committee hearing. It is devastating.

If you’d like to read all the live tweets and see the documents I’m referring to in the above blog post, click here.

If you want to read more about Vennells’ stewardship of the Post Office throughout the scandal, here’s a (hopefully) useful primer.

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72 responses to “Vennells Day 1: the Five Things we learned”

  1. […] were taken to notes Perkins apparently made after a private dinner she had with her CEO Paula Vennells at The Zetter restaurant in Clerkenwell on 19 March 2012. Included in the notes were the […]

  2. […] her appearance before the Business Select Committee. In what has become an infamous email, Vennells wrote to her underlings with concerns about remote access to the Horizon IT […]

  3. Not in any way defending PV but at least she turned up – unlike Jane MacLeod and Mike Young. Also, while what the PO did was of course completely reprehensible the underlying cause of all this misery is Fujitsu supplying a sh*t product. If Horizon had actually worked properly we wouldn’t be here at all….

  4. She went into the Select Committee with 3 different answers to the remote access issue depending on how tough the questioning was. This wasn’t some glossy subject she could put some spin on. It was a crucial legal point. What kind of CEO would accept this without asking some awkward and obvious questions?

  5. Richard Roughley avatar
    Richard Roughley

    I have learned over the years (I am 76 now) that judging a person’s character is quite simple. They give it away in a word, a phrase, or an action. It can confirm whether they are good or bad. In PV’s case, her mask slipped when sending the email after the One Show. Forget the tears and apologies, this showed her true colours. She is a nasty piece of work.

    1. That one email basically negated the waffle of the previous 3 days. That was the true PV. That was the true POL.

  6. It is fairly obvious the fix is already in. They said they can’t find Mike Young. Yet she phone him up in November and Wynn implied not recently – i,e 6 months is along time and phone numbers stop working?

    Wynn also prompted her to say Mike Young CTO left 2013 to join the Paras?

    If only there was a way to phone the army or contact him…

    I was able to track down a French magistrate responsible for handling a crime in 1972. People can be found if you want to find them.

    1. In fairness it wasn’t clear which November (and she said she’s spoken to nobody for last couple of years)

  7. A summary of the PO strategy for the select committee hearing:

    (1) Lie.
    (2) Then, if pressed, obfuscate.
    (3) If pressed further, give a half-truth.

    A summary of Sir Wyn’s brilliant deduction of the PO strategy……..WHY?

  8. From Day 1 Vennells – bit surprised no one has picked up on Tim McCormack’s eerily prescient emails to Vennells? In 2016 he foretold all that would (& has) happened if she didn’t wake up & do something to stop this scandal. Maybe everyone else but me already knows this?
    As an unaffected but concerned ex-SPM, with a solid IT background, he told Vennells he had concrete evidence of important Horizon bugs & urged her to act quickly to end the misery of Seema Misra. Her coterie branded him a “bluffer”, but he told her plainly what the future held if she did nothing, adding “You are a complete bunch of idiots playing havoc with the lives of people you have little interest in.”

  9. Regarding the end of Day 1 with Vennells – here are the exact words I texted to a friend in the UK: “OMG, Sir Wyn may look like a teddy bear but he goes in like a grizzly. Did you see the end of the session?!” It was a true mic drop moment.

    And yes, I believe that Vennells lies pretty much constantly. She never stops blinking rapidly. Blink, blink, blink = lie, lie, lie.
    And the word salad she spouts.

    If what she says is even remotely true, she has to have been the most incompetent and least curious CEO on the planet.

  10. A true measure of restraint from everyone at the inquiry today (23/5) when Beer asked Vennels if she had a misunderstanding with the keyboard she was typing on! I don’t know how people contained it – I was ROFL for 5 minutes. Top job. What must be a harrowing time for the victims still going through this for all these years, hopefully this was a comfort to see the ridiculousness of Vennel’s defence called out.

    1. Day 3 will inspire less restraint when Vennells fails to respond to questions about efforts to recuse the judge for bias. Sir Wynn will need to show a strong straight bat (aka block the zingers) with the impending ferocity from the core participants questions.

  11. And they wondered why we voted to leave the EU when so many major organisations prove themselves, if not corrupt, then seriously dysfunctional: banking crisis, MPs expenses scandal, vehicle manufacturers emissions scandal, British Airways dirty tricks, Shell overstating oil reserves, Enron, MG Rover Group pensions scandal, Payment protection insurance, BBC & Jimmy Savile…… and there’s no sign that things are improving.
    Question: are ethics mythical?

  12. I suppose with the election looming and the promise of the July bill to clear postmasters names means that is now will be another delay – coupled with the fact that minister kevin hollingrake (spelling?) who seems to have done well will then be out of his job and a new one installed ( how many is that now???)

  13. I had the impression that she had settled on a strategy of tell one lie and then try to give as much detail about everything else. I refer to her apparent unawareness of the 100-strong investigation team! Must be a rogue department.
    Then came the late zingers including that email exchange with AWOL Legal Counsel – when it is clear that they both already knew about Fujitsu super users. Dear dear. She’s not obviously incompetent so that only really leaves lying, although as the blog post says there are people who don’t seem to know they are living in an alternate reality created by their own reframing. Such people can do a lot of damage.

    1. Stewart Robertson avatar
      Stewart Robertson

      The point about super-users is a great one. Beer pointed out that she didn’t say “What are super-users? I’ve never heard of super-users before”. I wished he’d pushed that a bit further, because this gets right to the heart of what she knew, and when she knew it. But maybe her reply was such an obvious lie that he didn’t feel he needed to.

  14. Thanks again Nick, always appreciate your court reporting.

  15. Vennells is giving a master class in self-justification with long meandering and deliberately diverting answers larded with biz-speak (“going forward”, “surfacing”, “interfaces” etc.) with time-wasting interjections in her answers such as (“I wanted to show leadership…”). And, as with all the managers and executives, everything would be done differently “with hindsight”. Jason Beer is constantly having to get her to return to the question asked.

    It’s interesting that virtually all justifications for her behaviour seems to have occurred in corridors when she bumped into executive members. Beer picked up on this and asked her where was the documentation backing her assertions. She didn’t have an answer.

    She is, btw, utterly unable to define what was meant by “systemic failures” in Horizon (or the lack of such failures).

  16. Kirstie Jenkins avatar
    Kirstie Jenkins

    “When I said the ship had no sinking functionality, I just meant that we had a strict protocol whereby the iceberg had to confirm that the ship could be sunk, and as far as I am aware it had only been used once”

    1. Alan Cornforth avatar
      Alan Cornforth

      But did the ship have remote access so that the passengers could be saved without the captain being aware?

    2. Raymond Dodkin avatar
      Raymond Dodkin

      That is such a brilliant and accurate analogy. Skewers the folderol and claptrap emanating from this woman in a sentence. Thank you. I confess I shall probably steal it and I hope you will for give me for that.

  17. Vennells knew. She willingly spent all that money to muddy the truth for as long as possible. Paula excluded the POL employees that she did not think had the mental fortitude to hold fast to the conspiracy and in doing so created the last gasp conditions for this collective amnesia. Perverting the course of justice makes Vennells a pariah.

  18. Andrew Birley avatar

    Thanks Nick, fantastic summary.

    Day 2: Venells stated that throughout all of this, the Post Office wanted to be reassured that the Horizon system work. I’m sure she / they did, but that stance is very different to one that wants to come to the right conclusion, based on the facts.

  19. Can I say how much I enjoy your reporting of this epic scandal. I bought your book and I admire the tenacity with which you go after Vennells et al. I hope to see some of them behind bars one day. Keep up the good work.

  20. Root Cause Analysis!

    As our human/computer systems increased in complexity by orders-of-magnitude, highly trained teams using sophisticated techniques were required to develop them and, inevitably, analyse them when issues arose. As this scandal illustrates, UK leaders (sic) and senior managers do not posses the knowledge or skills to operate effectively in this technological jungle.

  21. Alexander More avatar
    Alexander More

    She is absolutely squirming. If she did know, she was both reckless and malicious to not stop the prosecutions in their tracks. If she didn’t know, she was incompetent as a leader. There are no two ways about it. No wonder she was paid so much!

  22. Jeremy Callaghan avatar
    Jeremy Callaghan

    Nick this is an outstandingly fair and good summary of the day’s play. Thank you Jeremy Callaghan

  23. Cant believe that Paula Vennells thinks that a CEO’s job is to purely rely on advice from her subordinates, took the job without understanding the role and yet was chosen (by who?). A CEO is paid the ‘big bucks’ because they are responsible for everything that happens in their name and so they need to be inquisitive and dig.

    1. Connie Willcocks avatar
      Connie Willcocks

      I also keep asking who employed her. Was she employed purely for her love of God, her poor memory, her nativity and ignorance which would allow her to be manipulated or because someone knew she would be a good liar?

      1. Not just employed. Promoted. Repeatedly.

  24. The Prince Andrew Newsnight interview was a car crash. Vennells evidence yesterday was more an attempt to prove the Post Office multiple motorway madness crash was caused by a series of exponential near misses with the truth by more drivers than in your average Grand Prix.

    Paula Vennells did her best to indicate that her careless driving was caused by those around her not giving the right directions. She did not, or would not read the road ahead or see any signs. About as convincing an excuse as a Dominic Cummings eye test drive.

    Back to the Newsnight interview comparison, I half expected her to say that she could not have read the briefing note for the select committee meeting because at the time she was in the Pizza Express vestibule having garlic bread and wine.

    Today, a religious condition that prevents her soul from sweating?

    1. Big Chris, yes.

      She and her crooked conspirators hope that you and I are so stupid as not to observe this.

      About thirty of these malevolent rogues are walking advertisements for the Campaign to Bring Back Capital Punishment.

  25. The writing was on the wall for her from the all evidence seen so far. Could not defend the indefensible.

    There is a danger now that she becomes the sole target with so much more incriminating for her and no buck to pass. So in effect an easy witness to corner and show culpability. The many others at the different levels who played a role in this should not be forgotten. They should also face the music. To date they have managed to divert the attention away by blaming someone else or not remembering or knowing. She should stop protecting all those she trusted, trust that was ill-placed or poorly judged, and name them. We actually know them. They are hiding behind their denials and should be called out.

    The period pre-JV where it all started should also not be forgotten and all those who failed and perpetuated the lie in their role, especially the CEO and the Board should be exposed. Then there is Fujitso!

    1. Hear hear, a tethered (scape)goat is what she is to be sure.

  26. Charles Cawley avatar
    Charles Cawley

    If your boss says ‘this is what I want to hear’ if you dare say something different there is an implicit threat that you may find yourself politically damaged or fired. Vennells is a highly competent internal politician… pity that competence is no evidence of character or that it will be used for positive purposes.

    Internal politics used abusively is rampant in the public sector and most large to middle sized organisations. It is the single most damaging factor to the UK economy and society. It can be revealed and taught systematically… the fact it is hardly mentioned in colleges and never formally taught to managers or trainees is a monumental scandal. If you know the beast you can stop the abuse others perpetrate using it while finding a positive use for it. Millions suffer injustice and unnecessary stress and unhappiness at work because of the dishonesty of a few refusing to admit it even exists.

    Vennells is a supreme example of what happens when internal politics is uncontrolled. Her character was not suitable for management but she prospered because of close to obscene abuse of her political competence. Disgusting and shameful are those who let this happen.

    1. Absolutely correct. The culture of an organization comes from the top. When the CEO says ‘I need to say ‘no” WTF does she think is going to happen? She is in a position of power and influence affecting people’s careers. And that attitude filters down until the organization becomes dysfunctional and/or corrupt.

  27. I see disturbing parallels with the actions of Post Office management at various levels with the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971.

  28. Christopher Gadsden avatar
    Christopher Gadsden

    I thought the one thing that Mr Beer got wrong was in this question: ‘Beer was agog. “That’s an odd way of going about things, isn’t it? I want to know the answer to the question. Here’s the answer to the question. Tell me I’m wrong.”’

    The final words might better have been “Tell me I’m right”.

  29. Excellent comment!

  30. I’m not convinced that PV was so unaware and the trusting honest boss she presents herself. When responding to the tragic information about Martin Griffiths her response was to ask her staff to find a reason in Martin’s private life. (another example of tell them what you want an answer to be?) when in fact the only thing she needed to know was – Did we hound him and treat him badly in our dealings with him? Is Alan Bates right? PV could have asked to hear the recording or read the transcript of the interviews with Martin. She did not. why? that would have allowed the possibility that the PO was in the wrong. And meant PV would have to challenge John Scott- something no one appeared able to do.

    if anyone had received Alan Bates email their response would have been- this is awful and did we do it? Not PV her response was I think that theres a reason not related to us.

  31. What about the 100 strong investigatons and prosecutions department of whise existence PV claims she was unaware?

  32. The real key to this whole saga is to be found in the only place where no one wants to look: Fujitsu. In effect, with no superuser auditing, their computer room was an open safe for anyone to dip into. Would be very surprising if no one did, whether from the inside or maybe even from the outside …

    1. Alan Cornforth avatar
      Alan Cornforth

      Given that most institutional systems get hacked on a weekly basis, this theory is not without merit. Given the PO would go to any lengths to protect its brand, would Fujitsu do the same if had been hacked?

  33. Julian Hofmann avatar
    Julian Hofmann

    Sir Wynn’s “Why?” question was just brilliantly timed at the end, but Jason Beer was devastating today with his questioning. Absolute class act. I am glad they got past the jolly hockey sticks manner and exposed someone who seems categorically out of their depth. The problem with Vennells is that she is clearly a character easily dominated by more forceful personalities – Second Sight’s Ron Warmington said, in his view, the middle management (VandenBogard, Mark Davies, Rod Ismay, Chris Aujard and Jane MaCleod) were leading the organisation by the nose, which has the ring of truth. Unfortunately, compensating for that weakness meant Vennells turning all low rent Machiavellian, which was a good portion of the evidence today. Alisdair Cameron is no neutral observer, but he does seem competent. If you look at the litany of changes he had to make in the wake of PV’s departure, she clearly left an organisation in chaos.

  34. This incompetent woman has a sociopathic inability to recognise and respond to her own failures and shortcomings. A good manager can be recognised by the talents of their appointed management team. She surrounded (and insulated) herself with loyal incompetent “Yes people”.

    I dont believe justice will come from this inquiry. However the evidence is now a permanent public record and will form the basis for subsequent court cases. It will be a case study in business and legal schools going forward.

    Keep up the good work Nick!

  35. I’m struck by her poor word choice when she called the subpostmasters “those people”. Maybe it’s just me? Why not “our trusted partners” or something more humane?

    Also today she told us that the Post Office knew about Horizon issues, but she didn’t. So I guess she repays, at minimum, her CEO salary.

  36. Fascinating to try to work out how PVs mind works. Clearly she is not simply ‘relating the historical facts’ as stored in her memory banks, as if so her answers would come faster and with less hesitancy. She’s clearly carefully selecting each word very slowly in order to convey a certain narrative.
    Is she a) consciously aware in her mind of her ‘guilt’ i.e. is there a mental image in her mind of the actual – far more likely – actuality, i.e. that the memo about how to try 3 stages of presentation to the Parliamentary committee was indeed simply a plan for obfuscation? And whilst being fully aware of this reality, is she consciously relating a false version of both the events and her thought processes at the time?
    Or is b) her ‘guilt’ such a traumatic threat to her very existence that she somehow believes the twisted narrative that she is producing??
    Her M.O. is surprisingly simple – but then the best defence M.O.s usually are.
    1. ‘I’m here to be honest and truthful’ – so nothing I say can be interpreted as other than that
    2. ‘I may not have read everything I was given’ – so the fact that you are quoting from a paper version of it is no evidence of me having seen and digested it
    3. ‘I’m not very good at IT’ – so it’s all a bit of a blur
    4. ‘I depended so much on others who might have let me down’ – [I do hope some of these maligned ‘others’ get a chance to rebut]
    5. ‘I don’t have a great memory’ – [they really should be checking the water at PO Head Office, given so many staff were similarly affected…]
    6. ‘I’m only human’ – pass me the Kleenex while I weep, for I weep for the world – BTW is it the camera with the red light that’s Live?

    Jason Beer et al are wonderful, but I’d have been tempted to repeat a couple of questions a third time when she was heading towards the ropes. Hopefully he has a few rabbits concealed in his hat for subsequent days.
    If he does manage to back her into a corner, will be interesting to see if her well constructed mask drops – as someone who very likely has zero empathy and enjoys power, whether in the boardroom or in the pulpit, she will not have been under an uncomfortably hot spotlight for probably a fair few decades.

  37. None of the PO hierarchy deserve charity. None.

  38. She’s following the same routine as all of the other senior managers. Admit what the documents can prove and fail to remember when questioned anything they can’t that may be damaging. Notice how her memory is pin sharp to the point that she can recall precise details in documents during her rebuttal of Jason Beer. He had already noticed this and told her so in the morning session.

    The information flow to senior managers is normally dictated by the senior manager. it’s more than likely she wasn’t told about certain things because she told her team not to tell her. The old “plausible deniability” route

    Most of it stinks of the same BS as the lawyer who never saved a document in his life.

  39. I’ve learned some new words during the tsunami of legalese proffered up during all this but circumlocutory is the best yet. I’m minded to write it into a song. !

    1. Alan Cornforth avatar
      Alan Cornforth

      Good luck getting something to rhyme with it 😉

  40. Dame Moya Greene’s whatsapp was clearly written with the inquiry in mind. We had a name for exchanges such as this which for the sake of decency I shall abbreviate as CMA emails. Look I was concerned. Look I asked you twice. I believed you. I’m not to blame you are.
    She surely is fooling nobody. With people being imprisoned, bankrupted and forced to suicide. With stories about miscarriages of justice in Private Eye and Computer Weekly. It was surely incumbent upon her to prioritize this issue and dig deeper. In not apparently doing so she is guilty of the same incompetence as Vennells. Either that or she too is lying.
    Surely another one that needs to return her honours.

  41. As an accountant in practice at the time of the initial Horizon roll out, I was made aware by one of my clients, a very experienced and completely reliable SPM that:
    1. The new system was known to be faulty
    2. That there was a practice of SPMs declaring incorrect cash balances when they knew the system had failed. (Presumably in the hope that a correction would be discovered later).
    3. That Post Office management was both feared and not trusted.
    4. That the NFSP was considered completely ineffective and in reality there was nowhere they could turn to for help
    5. When push came to shove they had no realistic alternative other than accept figures they knew to be wrong

    1. I am a company accountant of many year’s experience. What I find completely baffling is why each post office could not download/print a daily transaction list showing opening cash balance, all receipts, all payments, closing cash balance. This should agree to money in the till. The list should include any other transactions input by, for instance Fujitsu. If I’d been on a jury and this couldn’t be produced by the system I wouldn’t find the accused guilty.

  42. Bill Woodbridge avatar
    Bill Woodbridge

    Moya Greene removed from the list of witnesses giving evidence? She’s still shown there as of today, scheduled for Friday 19 July.

    1. Apologies. Fixed

      1. Nick

        You should really have replied “I don’t recall writing that”.

      2. Bill Woodbridge avatar
        Bill Woodbridge

        Please don’t apologise Nick! Excellent account as always.

  43. Much anticipated, and ultimately a rather strange day in many ways. We had a whole gamut of emotions, not all attributable to PV. I thought that Sir Wyn Williams was on great form, perhaps a closet standup (in court) comedian? He humourously made light of a defect, sorry, an anomaly/exception in the ceiling causing a leak.
    Undoubtedly, question of the day/month/year/decade/enquiry was this masterpiece from Jason Beer: “Miss Vennells, Are you the unluckiest CEO ever?” – absolutely brilliant opener!
    Paula Vennels had rather obviously been instructed by her legal team(probably very expensive – but she can afford it) to play the ” I am the victim here” (get-out-of-jail-free) card. Well, this defence won’t work. It is as transparent as my CHORD power amplifier is to inputted audio signals.
    to be continued….

  44. Donald Taylor avatar

    Moya Greene still seems to be listed for Friday July 19, after Jo Swinson.

  45. Thanks Nick.

    It must have been maddening and excruciating to have to listen to such addled testimony. The parallel universe definitely exists .. not just in the Post Office but across huge swathes of corporate and institutional Britain.

    They’re good with spreadsheets and corporate blather and ferocious in pursuit of profit and status and almost wholly indifferent when not nakedly contemptuous of ‘the little people’ … which is almost all of us.

    Regards Thom

  46. Starting to think by her reactions that she was a “patsy” to be set up by those under her – well thats my impression from day one. When do the two best lawyers there Mr Henry and Mr Stein take their turns?

    Its worth reading is this from the late Frank Field MP from 12/04/2000 in a speech to Parliament (from Hansard – as follows)

    “However, I have a tale to tell about the state of the project that I inherited. I did not merely talk to colleagues and read the papers; I visited the project partners. Had it been my responsibility to do so, I would have sacked the members of the Post Office board, who were appalling people. They were short-sighted and partisan. They were genuinely unwilling to enter into a discussion that I was trying to have on how to secure the long-term future of sub-post offices. They thought themselves smart; they thought themselves clever. They doubtless accepted their fine salaries, but I doubt whether they served post offices or sub-post offices well, and I am disappointed that many of them are still in post today. Perhaps someone else will deal with them.”

    1. Thank you. It says something that this was observed 25 years ago and yet, the Leviathan rumbled on unchecked. I note that the Scottish govt has removed the Post Office’s authority to prosecute its own cases. They must go through the police and normal criminal procedures. I wonder when our govt will do the same. I agree with the late Frank Field in that this current shower shouldn’t even be in charge of arranging public toilets at a dog show.

    2. Thank you, M Hepton. MP Frank Field’s assessment of the PO board members he met in 2000 is starkly astute & goes a long way towards explaining why PO did what they then did to so many SPMs. Would be great if his observations could be read out as a PO ‘character statement’ at the Inquiry! And when he says he didn’t just rely on “talking to colleagues & reading the papers” – that’s exactly what Vennells failed to do in her own job.

    3. Wow you weren’t wrong about Mr Henry. Made Mr Beer look like a teddy bear.

  47. I think the most illuminating question came from Sir Wyn in the closing minutes of today’s session. PV was truly skewered with a simple, well-executed “why?”

  48. Alan Cornforth avatar
    Alan Cornforth

    Was she the puppet or the puppet-mistress? The sinned against or the sinner? She was too trusting, apparently, and believed everything she was told. It could be a strap-line from a poor drama series but, unfortunately, it turned into a performance bordering on farce. Laughter at the inquiry from the people listening to her testimony, Moya Greene breaking up with her by text … tune in for episode 2 tomorrow.

    1. Gosh that last question was awkward. Didn’t she squirm?

    2. Charles Cawley avatar
      Charles Cawley

      The laughter was unsettling. She should never have been promoted beyond lower or middle management due to an inappropriate character. Modern HR conflates competence with character. It seems to ignore the fact competent people can act badly while less competent people often try to do the right thing.

      The chair sensing things were getting nasty manufactured a short break with the drips incident. He showed respect for her in a way I doubt she would ever have done for others.

      It was less of a farce and more of a tragedy. Vennells fatal flaw was weak, aggressive self-entitlement combined with contempt for anyone who did not toe the line. Although she is highly competent in internal politics she used that for bad ends and, finally, big politics came for her.

      Political parties are equally brand obsessed. Internal politicians do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg. In this case Vennells was found out and the parties felt it more profitable to finally act against someone doing exactly what they do. The establishment turned on itself after years of doing nothing. This may sound good news but when the establishment divides things can get much worse.

      Vennells may well deserve punishment, and possibly quite severe. But, for all her possible culpability, she is being turned into a scapegoat by MPs of all major parties who let this happen. We should not be distracted from this ugly reality

      1. I’m not so sure she is being ‘turned into a scapegoat’.
        She was the CEO, paid an awful lot of money…nothing should have got past her. To feign ignorance/lack of knowledge is an insult to the inquiry, but more so to those who suffered (and yes, died) under her watch. She is very quick to lay blame at others’ doors, less so to admit her own culpability. Strange how Ms Vennells recalls, in quite some detail, all the things others said/did but has precious little memory of her own part in this travesty. Jason Beer handled it very well, though it was pretty obvious his patience was wearing thin towards the end of Day 2. Wyn Williams, as ever, was astute and sharp as a tack, picking up on some very salient points and putting Ms Vennells on the spot more than once.
        There has been some debate on this forum and others about whether Ms Vennells is playing fast and loose with the truth – and given her obfuscation, the only conclusion I can draw is that she would really, really like us all to believe she is telling the truth but the story she weaves has more holes than a sieve.
        I wonder, had she been giving evidence earlier (before some of her colleagues) whether her story would have changed…my feeling is that it would not – those beastly devils kept things from her! However, theirs might have if they knew she would chuck them under the bus at the first opportunity. How very ‘Christian’.

    3. Breaking up with her by text! Nice work there.

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