Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has arrived at the Horizon IT inquiry as she is set to be quizzed on her role in the scandal – including likely questions on whether she deliberately misled MPs.

The disgraced ex-chief executive did not answer any questions as she entered Aldwych House in London on Wednesday.

She is due to begin her three days of evidence amid claims she covered-up the Post Office’s knowledge of bugs in the faulty accounting software.

Paula Vennells
Ms Vennells will give evidence to the probe at Aldwych House, central London (Yui Mok/PA)

Hundreds of subpostmasters were prosecuted by the business between 1999 and 2015 after Horizon, owned by Japanese company Fujitsu, made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Officers had previously asked media to ensure there was a clear path for Ms Vennells to enter the building as she arrived around two hours before proceedings were due to commence.

She was surrounded by press as she exited a car a short distance from the venue and was eventually escorted by police.

Ms Vennells, a 65-year-old ordained priest, was Post Office boss from 2012 to 2019 – a time period in which the company was beginning to have to deal with the fall-out of potential wrongful subpostmaster convictions.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Paula Vennells is due to begin giving her evidence to the Inquiry on Wednesday morning (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She has been urged by the scandal’s victims to tell the truth in the lead-up to her evidence and “come clean” with any personal wrongdoings.

The probe previously heard Ms Vennells had hoped that there would not be an independent inquiry – even having her number blocked by ex-head of IT Lesley Sewell after seeking her help to avoid one.

She is due to be questioned under oath just hours after an email surfaced which showed Ms Vennells describe potential wrongful convictions of subpostmasters as “very disturbing” more than a year before the company halted prosecutions.

ITV News reported that the October 2013 email, as well as a recording of a phone conversation involving Ms Vennells, confirmed she was sent case files of eight subpostmasters.

The email from Ms Vennells to Ron Warmington, a forensic accountant with firm Second Sight who were drafted in to review independently the Horizon system, read: “Apart from finding them very disturbing (I defy anyone not to), I am now even better informed.

“The form you have devised is very helpful as it removes some of the emotion and highlights very clearly areas we need to address as well as investigate for the mediation process, which I hope will bring closure for some of these people.

“As I said… I take this very seriously…”

In 2015, she told MPs she had seen no evidence of miscarriages of justice and that there were no faults in the Horizon system.

Counsel to the inquiry are likely to probe Ms Vennells on whether she deliberately misled the business select committee.

Jason Beer KC previously told the probe she made a false statement in 2012 to then Conservative MP Oliver Letwin when she wrote about the prosecution of subpostmasters, in which she said: “In every instance, the court has found in our favour.”

Questions about the Post Office’s alleged “defensive and self-absorbed” culture also loom over Ms Vennells – with the business’s current chief financial officer Alisdair Cameron speaking of an “unacceptable, self-serving” relationship with subpostmasters.

He told the probe that Ms Vennells had been “clear in her conviction from the day I joined that nothing had gone wrong” – adding that she did not believe there had been any miscarriages of justice.

She has not yet spoken in detail about her role in the scandal, but previously apologised for the “devastation caused to subpostmasters and their families”.

Post Office sign
Hundreds of people were prosecuted after a bug in the Horizon IT system made it look as if money had gone missing at Post Office branches (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Ms Vennells was made a CBE in the 2019 New Years Honours List “for services to the Post Office and to charity”, but voluntarily handed the honour back after a petition attracted more than 1.2 million signatures.

The Metropolitan Police previously said they are looking at “potential fraud offences” arising out of the prosecution of subpostmasters; for example, “monies recovered… as a result of prosecutions or civil actions”.

Two Fujitsu experts, who were witnesses in the trials, are being investigated for perjury and perverting the course of justice – but nobody has been arrested since the inquiry was launched in January 2020.

There are unlikely to be any criminal charges until inquiry chairman Sir Wyn Williams completes his final report, which is expected to be published next year.

In the meantime, hundreds of subpostmasters are still awaiting compensation despite the Government announcing that those who have had convictions quashed are eligible for £600,000 payouts.