The Post Office Horizon IT scandal is rooted in class prejudice

<span>Paula Vennells arrives at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry on 24 May.</span><span>Photograph: Vuk Valcic/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Paula Vennells arrives at the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry on 24 May.Photograph: Vuk Valcic/Zuma Press Wire/Rex/Shutterstock

Re your editorial on Paula Vennells (24 May), one of the main themes of the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry has been the complete lack of evidence of competence, curiosity or compassion in the leadership team; it is a theme that has often been seen in public inquiries in recent years. It is clear that the UK is infected with leadership teams staffed by people who are there not due to any sort of competence or merit, but because that’s just what their sort of people do.

The overriding characteristics of these privately educated, overpaid and arrogant groups of people are their indifference to the real-life consequences of their actions for ordinary hard-working people, their intrinsic belief that their sort are trustworthy and credible, unlike the little people, and their bewilderment at the idea that they should be held accountable.

Whether in politics or business, we see this played out time and again. The only way to prevent it is to ensure that it is impossible to live completely separate lives removed the realities of ordinary folk, so that this them-and-us mentality can begin to be eroded. It starts with the dismantling of private schools.
David Youngs
Rattlesden, Suffolk

• Marina Hyde rightly concludes of the Post Office scandal that there seems to be a class of people who are sent to jail and, by contrast, a class of people who get directorships (Into Britain’s angry pulpit steps Rev Vennells, who ran the Post Office – to explain why it sent honest people to jail, 17 May).

Her indictment could be taken further. The class prejudices involved are such that one class assumes, without thinking, that hundreds of its employees – the little people – are dishonest. Without these prejudices, it should have been apparent to the meanest intelligence that the extraordinarily high incidence of alleged theft was statistically improbable.
Margaret Pelling

• Marina Hyde seems surprised to discover that there is one class of people who go to jail and another who get directorships. If this wasn’t so, the prison population would be representative of the country as a whole. Instead, it is heavily weighted towards people from broken homes, with poor education and with mental health problems. And we seem content to stoke this disparity by sending record numbers to grossly overcrowded prisons. Meanwhile, those who do real damage to society, notably two recent prime ministers, continue to cream it in.
Peter Coltman

• I am becoming concerned about the failing memories being frequently exposed in the current large crop of public inquiries. I am hearing a constant repetition of “I don’t recall”, “I was unaware”, “I cannot remember”, “I may have”, adding to the widespread failure to remember the instruction not to wipe WhatsApp messages. Has the time arrived for annual cognitive impairment testing of senior members of government and the civil service, and senior executives of corporations such as the Post Office? Perhaps the former Department for Work and Pensions favourite Atos could be persuaded to bid and, by its rigorous winnowing, improve the quality of governance in these bodies.
Dr Alan Legge

• Marina Hyde (Rev Vennells wept but couldn’t remember much about sending innocent subpostmasters to jail. All so long ago, 22 May) rightly points out how the word “sorry” was debased by Paula Vennells. There was a time when it seemed to be the hardest word to say because of the potential loss of face. Now it is deployed all too readily and has ceased to have any impact or meaning. Perhaps it should be banned at public inquiries and replaced with “guilty”.
Rod Price
Mollington, Oxfordshire

• Paula Vennells claiming “I was too trusting” has echoes of Prince Andrew saying he continued to associate with Jeffrey Epstein because he was “too honourable”. I would treat both claims with the same scepticism as any assertion by an applicant for a job that their main fault was excessive diligence.
Bill Bradbury

• One might expect an ordained priest to be familiar with the Ten Commandments. In which case, whatever happened to “Thou shalt not bear false witness…”?
Sue Barnard
Hale, Greater Manchester

• What was even more astonishing than Paula Vennells’ blaming others even when she was in charge of the Post Office and her insincere apologies was the fact that she had worked only on this inquiry for three years, and that it had been a full-time job for her for the past year. And after all that, this was, apparently, the best she could do at giving her evidence. With that level of competence, no wonder the scandal was perpetrated.
Dr Richard Carter
Putney, London

• There are two meanings of the statement “I can’t remember that.” One is that I have no memory of that; the other is that I can’t permit myself to remember that.
Bas Hardy
Ripon, North Yorkshire