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Paula Vennells will have ‘no way out’ at Horizon IT inquiry, ex-submistress says

DISGRACED ex-Post Office chief Paula Vennells is “heading into the corner where there’s no way out” at the Horizon IT inquiry, a campaigning former subpostmistress said today.

Jo Hamilton, who was falsely accused of stealing £36,000 from the Post Office branch she ran in South Warnborough, Hampshire, urged Ms Vennells to tell the truth when she appears before the inquiry tomorrow.

Ms Hamilton said she would “just put my hands up” and say “I’m really sorry and this is what happened.”

“We just want the truth,” she said.

“You’d have thought a bit of her humanity would have come out and she should have done the right thing.

“I don’t know — is she feeble? Is she really a feeble person? Was she over-promoted?

“The whole thing I find bizarre. I’m really intrigued to know what she’s going to come out with.

“I’m not expecting anything, so anything she gives us will be a bonus — but I would love her just to tell the truth.”

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office and handed criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty Horizon system made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Hundreds are still awaiting full compensation despite the government announcing those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.

The scandal was put under the spotlight after ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office earlier this year.

The probe has heard Ms Vennells did not believe there had been miscarriages of justice and “could not have got there emotionally.”

Ms Hamilton, who pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of false accounting to avoid going to jail and was prosecuted in 2006, said: “She did know. The tone of some of her emails — I’m sure of it. So she knew they were in trouble.

“I’m obviously not privy to all the disclosure like the lawyers are but I know there’s stuff that exists that shows she knew, and she just carried it on.

“I don’t know if she hoped that in the end they’d have enough money and outspend us — I think that was the plan.”

A document submitted by Ms Vennells’s lawyers ahead of a preliminary hearing in 2021 has said she was “deeply disturbed” by the judgements in the cases against lead campaigner Alan Bates and Ms Hamilton in which Horizon was found to be faulty.

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