After shaking the UK establishment, Mr Bates vs The Post Office is now premiering across the pond, bringing one of the largest miscarriages of justice in British history to international attention.


The series follows the campaign by Alan Bates to clear the names of hundreds of subpostmasters who were wrongly accused of fraud and/or theft by the Post Office, due to accounting errors that were actually caused by a faulty IT system.

Viewers were particularly shocked by the depiction of then-Post Office CEO Paula Vennells, with the series sparking renewed calls for her to hand back a CBE she had been awarded for "services to the Post Office and to charity" in 2019.

After mounting public pressure, including from a petition that amassed more than one million signatures, Vennells handed back her CBE in January 2024. It was formally revoked the following month by King Charles III.

Vennells's handling of the Horizon scandal continues to be questioned – here's an update on the latest developments and information on what happened to the businesswoman after the events of the series.

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Who is Paula Vennells and where is she today?

Lia Williams as Paula Vennells in Mr Bates vs the Post Office wearing a grey suit, sat at a desk in a hearing
Lia Williams as Paula Vennells in Mr Bates vs The Post Office. ITV Studios/ITV

Paula Vennells is a businesswoman who was chief executive officer of Post Office Limited from 2012 to 2019.

She started her career with Unilever and L’Oreal, before working for companies including Dixons Stores Group, Argos and Whitbread Plc, where she was group commercial director.

She joined the Post Office in 2007, and was appointed as CEO in 2012.

It was between 1999 and 2015 that the Post Office sought to prosecute 700 subpostmasters and mistresses based on information from the faulty Horizon computer system.

When this came to light, Vennells ordered a series of internal reports into the prosecutions and the Horizon system.

But during her leadership, Post Office Limited fought lengthy legal battles against subpostmasters seeking redress, as Vennells insisted Horizon was "robust".

Vennells later issued an apology for the scandal, saying: "It was and remains a source of great regret to me that these colleagues and their families were affected over so many years."

Later, when more convictions were quashed in 2021, she said that she intends to "work with the government inquiry to ensure that staff and the public get the answers they deserve".

Other roles Vennells has held throughout her career have included being a non-executive director of Morrisons Plc between 2016 and 2021, a member of the government’s Financial Inclusion Policy Forum and a member of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group for the Church of England.

She is an ordained Church of England Minister, but stopped her duties as of 2021.

She also served as a non-executive board member at the Cabinet Office between February 2019 and March 2020.

Vennells stood down from her positions on multiple boards in 2021 after a number of subpostmasters and mistresses had their convictions quashed, explaining at the time: "It is obvious that my involvement with the Post Office has become a distraction from the good work undertaken by the boards I serve.

"I have therefore stepped down with immediate effect from all of my board positions."

As of April 2024, Vennells is facing fresh questions about her involvement in the Horizon scandal after ITV News claimed to have obtained a secret recording that suggests the CEO was told that branch accounts could be accessed remotely in 2013.

In response, Lord James Arbuthnot said: "A question that has always remained unanswered has been whether the more junior people in the Post Office management had actually told Paula Vennells of the possibility of remote access of the sub-postmasters accounts without the knowledge of the sub-postmasters.

"This is the final proof that establishes the answer to that question."

Vennells has not yet commented on the latest claims, and declined to talk when approached by Channel 4 News in the video below:

When did Paula Vennells receive her CBE?

She received a CBE in the 2019 New Year Honours List for services to the Post Office and to charity.

After Mr Bates vs The Post Office aired on ITV, a petition to strip Vennells of her CBE attracted more than a million signatures.

On Tuesday 9th January 2024, Vennells announced that she was handing back her CBE with immediate effect. It was revoked the following month by King Charles III.

Who plays Paula Vennells in Mr Bates vs The Post Office?

Lia Williams wearing a black outfit, smiling
Lia Williams. ITV Studios/ITV

Paula Vennells is played in Mr Bates vs The Post Office by Lia Williams, who has previously had roles in series including Silent Witness, Doc Martin, The Missing, Strike, Death in Paradise, The Lazarus Project, The Capture, The Crown and His Dark Materials.

She has also had roles in films including Living, Benediction and The Foreigner.

Williams said of playing Vennells: "I tried to portray her with ambiguity, because I felt that that best served the script and the piece. It leaves the audience to decide what they think of her, rather than me ramming something down their throat.

"We only know that she lost control of a situation that she had no idea how to manage. It was beyond her."

She continued: "My understanding is that the writer Gwyn [Hughes] had to deal with Paula very carefully, because there were lawyers all over it. So the part that I played was mainly transcripts, pulled from emails and quotes directly onto the page.

"There was only a certain amount of interpretation I was allowed, and for an actor, that's so difficult - because we don't speak in the same way that we write an email or text. So I had to try and make the written transcript sound as if it belonged in her mouth.

"On the other hand, I did feel that she kept having to lapse in to 'corporate speak' to deal with that fear because that's all she knew. As long as she had facts and figures and numbers in front of her she was fine. The moment she went off script, as it were, she was struggling."

Mr Bates vs The Post Office is streaming now on ITVX. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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