The name Paula Vennells probably doesn’t mean much to you, says Marina Hyde in The Guardian. Which is strange, given she presided over “the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British history”. During her seven-year tenure as CEO of the Post Office, 736 branch managers were wrongly prosecuted for theft, fraud and false accounting because of a faulty new computer system forced upon them by bosses. “The individual stories are horrific.” At least four people committed suicide; dozens were imprisoned, including a teenager. One operator spent her son’s 10th birthday locked up, while pregnant, in a “horrendous” cell, and gave birth to her second child wearing an electronic tag.
Despite these “mindboggling and frequently tragic” stories, not a single person has been held accountable – including the top brass, who allegedly knew the system was flawed. Vennells herself was awarded a CBE in 2019. And the scandal has received almost no coverage compared to recent furores over comments made by Jeremy Clarkson and Gary Lineker. The subject just isn’t “sexy enough” for a “chatterati” who prefer cancelling their opponents on Twitter to the boring, grinding work of holding “iniquitous and dysfunctional systems” to account. And of course, obsessing on social media about celebrities saying something controversial is exactly the sort of “looking-the-wrong-way” that allowed this scandal to happen. As long as we remain hyper-focused on individual misdemeanours, the likes of Vennells “will keep on getting away with it”.