Former Post Office chief executive Paula Vennells “interjected” when senior management suggested subpostmaster prosecutions should stop, an inquiry has heard.

The Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry was shown a document that described Ms Vennells as “resiling” from the proposals in 2013.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Chris Aujard, a former top lawyer at the Post Office, gave evidence to the Horizon IT inquiry (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Asked about a meeting attended by the then chief executive, Chris Aujard, a former top lawyer at the Post Office said: “My recollection is that the executive committee were in favour of ceasing prosecutions entirely.

“But, when that proposition was discussed at the committee, Paula interjected or made the comment that proposition should not be taken as what I’d intended it to be, never bringing prosecutions, but rather… Post Office should continue to take some prosecutions.

“I’ve got no recollection of that meeting other than the limited recollection of that comment,” he added.

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells was said to have ‘interjected’ in talks to stop subpostmaster prosecutions (Anthony Devlin/PA)

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 from their branches.

Mr Aujard, who first joined the Post Office as interim general counsel in October 2013 and left the company in March 2015, said he was not told about “bugs, errors or defects” in the Horizon IT system when he took over the role.

He began his evidence to the inquiry by apologising to subpostmasters and their families for the “anguish and suffering” caused.

“I want to start by saying how deeply sorry I am to the subpostmasters and Post Office employees for the anguish and suffering that you and your families have had to endure,” he said.

“I know for many of you here this has come far too late.

“I hope the evidence I can give today will get to the heart of what has happened.”

Post Office Horizon IT scandal
Chris Aujard, former general counsel of Post Office Ltd, apologised to subpostmasters and their families before giving evidence to the Horizon IT inquiry (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

When asked if he had been aware of system issues, the former in-house lawyer said he was told “there were no bug, errors or defects” apart from those identified in an audit report.

Auditors Second Sight released an interim report which identified bugs that raised concerns over the reliability of Horizon data used to prosecute subpostmasters in July 2013.

Questioned about Post Office’s private prosecutions of subpostmasters, Mr Aujard he was “very surprised” to find out it was done as a general power for the company.

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