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Post Office inquiry hears from former general counsel

FORMER Post Office chief Paula Vennells did not want to use the word “bugs” when referencing the faulty Horizon system in an “Orwellian” move to sound “non-emotive," an inquiry heard today.

Susan Crichton, the Post Office’s general counsel before resigning in 2013, giving evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry, agreed that seeking to change the language demonstrated “an element of smoke and mirrors.”

The inquiry heard that in July 2013, the Post Office’s Ms Vennells had asked her “computer literate” husband for an alternative word to describe a computer bug.

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted 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.

In an email to then communications chief Mark Davies, Ms Vennells wrote: “My engineer/computer literate husband sent the following reply to the question: ‘What is a non-emotive word for computer bugs, glitches, defects that happen as a matter of course?

“Answer: ‘Exception or anomaly. You can also say conditional exception/anomaly which only manifests itself under unforeseen circumstances xx.”

Mr Davies replied: “I like exception v much.”

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