Who are the key figures in Post Office IT scandal?

The Post Office IT system scandal is one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in UK history - but who are the key figures in the story?

Paula Vennells

Ms Vennells was in senior roles at the Post Office when it prosecuted hundreds of postmasters for theft and false accounting - despite many raising concerns about the IT system.

Some were left bankrupt or imprisoned and many were shunned by their communities, but the charges were false

More than a million people signed a petition calling for Ms Vennells's CBE - awarded for services to the Post Office and to charity - to be revoked.

After days of pressure, she has now agreed to hand back the honour.

Ms Vennells first joined the Post Office as group network director in 2007 and was promoted to chief executive in 2012.

Alongside her career, she was ordained as a priest and served at three churches in Bedfordshire.

The year Ms Vennells took charge, the Post Office bowed to pressure to investigate after several sub-postmasters raised concerns about the Horizon system.

It commissioned a report by investigation firm Second Sight, which ultimately concluded there were no widespread accounting or IT issues.

Ms Vennells told a parliamentary committee in 2015 there had been no evidence of any miscarriage of justice.

But in 2017 a group of staff managed to bring its case to the High Court.

As it progressed, Ms Vennells faced increasing criticism and eventually stepped down in 2019, having been paid £4.5m during her time as boss.

The judge said the sub-postmasters should have their convictions quashed and described the Post Office's evidence as "institutional obstinacy".

Ms Vennells said after the case that she was "truly sorry for the suffering caused".

She left the Post Office in 2019 and became chair of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, but as the scandal grew she quit in December 2020 for "personal reasons".

Read more:
What is the Post Office scandal and why's it taken so long?
Devastating effect on the victims wrongly accused
'Hour by hour' talks to speed up Post Office appeals

Alan Bates

Mr Bates gave his name to the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which brought the case to a wider audience and sparked outrage over the injustice.

Part of the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance, he was one of six lead claimants in the original court battle and led the campaign to expose the scandal.

Played by actor Toby Jones in the series, he moved from Yorkshire to run a post office in the seaside resort of Llandudno in North Wales for five years.

Mr Bates believes he was dismissed because he flagged up problems with the Horizon system.

He's now pushing for swift compensation for victims - many of whom are still waiting for payouts.

Mr Bates said dozens of people have died over the years without compensation or seeing their name cleared.

He welcomed the ITV show but said it "couldn't cover all of the human loss and suffering" as it's "an enormously complex and vastly diverse story".

"There are hundreds and hundreds of people and families who have been affected," he said.

"What I hope people will realise is that in many cases, even now, the real story is not finished."

Tim Parker

A former Post Office chairman, the multi-millionaire joined in 2015 and held a vital position as sub-postmasters fought for the truth.

Much of his tenure was shrouded in controversy and he made a timely exit in 2022, a week before the independent public inquiry into the botched IT system began.

One ex-postmaster, Damian Owen, told the inquiry a letter he received from Mr Parker was "the most feeble apology I have ever received from anyone in my life" - inviting him to get in touch but providing no contact details.

Mr Parker earned the nickname 'the prince of darkness' for his tough cost-cutting approach in previous roles with firms such as the AA and Clarks shoes.

He stood down as chairman of the National Trust in 2021 amid a political controversy, and was previously chairman of luggage maker Samsonite.

His wealth was estimated at £247m by the Times Rich List in 2018.

In 2020, Mr Parker said he was "sincerely sorry on behalf of the Post Office for historical failings which seriously affected some postmasters".

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He said the firm was "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," he added.

Sir Ed Davey

The now leader of the Liberal Democrats was postal affairs minister between 2010 and 2012 when prosecutions were ongoing.

He refused Alan Bates's request to meet him in 2010, saying in a short three-paragraph letter "it wouldn't serve any purpose".

Sir Ed said the Horizon IT system was "an operational and contractual matter for POL (the Post Office) and not the government".

He did later meet Mr Bates and said he passed on concerns to management - but didn't intervene in any cases.

The Lib Dem boss has now said he was "clearly misled" by executives.

"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," said Sir Ed.

He added: "My heart goes out to all those people, we need to make sure their convictions are overturned and we need to make sure they are fairly compensated, and quickly."

Political rivals have accused him of taking "the side of the employers over the workers".

Tory deputy chairman Lee Anderson urged him to make a public apology and said he'd taken the "side of the Post Office employers and sadly many went to prison due to him not listening".

Gareth Jenkins

The former chief IT architect for Fujitsu, the company that designed Horizon, provided evidence and reports backing up the reliability of the system in a number of Post Office prosecutions.

He's been investigated by police amid concerns his court evidence wasn't consistent with information he may have had about problems with the system.

In 2022, he asked the public inquiry for immunity against incriminating himself.

Mr Jenkins was due to appear several times in 2023, but on each occasion it was postponed due to disclosure failings by the Post Office.

In the last instance, in November, it had to be postponed again after a last-minute dump of 3,045 new documents.

The inquiry chairman said it was a "source of frustration" but the documents needed to be processed and disclosed to Mr Jenkins before he gave evidence.

Some MPs have called for Fujitsu to help pay for compensating Post Office staff.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride suggested it might have to contribute if the inquiry concludes it made mistakes, saying it "won't necessarily just be the taxpayer" who is "on the hook for this money".

Fujitsu said it's "fully committed to supporting the inquiry in order to understand what happened and to learn from it" and that it previously apologised "for its role in their (postmasters') suffering".