22 May 2024

‘For god’s sake, speak truth’: ex-subpostmasters call for honesty from Vennells

22 May 2024

Former subpostmasters have called for honesty from Paula Vennells ahead of the ex-Post Office boss’ oral evidence to the Horizon IT inquiry, imploring her: “For god’s sake, speak truth.”

Ms Vennells is set to be quizzed on her role in the scandal amid claims she covered up the Post Office’s knowledge of bugs in the faulty accounting software.

Seema Misra and Lee Castleton are both victims of the Horizon scandal.

Ms Misra, who ran a Post Office in West Byfleet, Surrey, was jailed in 2010 after being accused of stealing £74,000. She was pregnant at the time.

Asked what she would say to Ms Vennells, Ms Misra told the PA news agency outside Aldwych House on Wednesday: “Please, for god’s sake, speak truth.

“That’s what we all deserve, we’ve been fighting such a long time … we want to know exactly what happened.”

Ms Misra said she “of course” feels strongly about what Ms Vennells is going to tell the inquiry, adding: “We’ve heard her name so many times.”

She told PA that no matter what happens, “we won’t give up”.

Lee Castleton, from Bridlington, East Yorkshire, was found to have a £25,000 shortfall at his branch in 2004. He was made bankrupt after he lost his legal battle with the Post Office.

The inquiry heard previously that Ms Vennells “likely” signed off on a trial bill of more than £300,000 for the civil case against Mr Castleton.

Former Post Office managing director Alan Cook told the inquiry that Ms Vennells, who was the organisation’s network director at the time the case was brought against Mr Castleton, was likely to be the “designated authority” who gave the go-ahead for legal costs.

Mr Castleton told PA on Wednesday: “I’m really looking forward to listen to what she has to say.

“It’s a good platform for her to finally speak. She’s not been able to, for whatever reason, speak for all these years. I think it’s important that she is listened to and heard and then we can all judge that.”

He said he was hoping to hear “the truth”.

”Let’s hear what, why and when, and who – who was involved in those decisions, why those decisions were made,” he continued. “And let’s listen to the other side of what we’ve heard already, which is the impact of those decisions, to hear what the reasons for those decisions were.”

Asked what message he would send to Ms Vennells if he could, Mr Castleton told PA: “This is your chance to put it out there. The world’s listening, if you like. Do what you feel is right.”

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