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Vennells tried to ‘manipulate language’ in non-emotive Horizon bugs request

Ms Vennells described her words as ‘wrong and stupid’.

Paula Vennells has admitted attempting to “manipulate language” when she sought to make Horizon bugs sound “non-emotive”.

The former Post Office boss said she should “not have engaged” with the conversation, describing her words as “wrong and stupid”.

In an email from July 2013, which was previously shown to the inquiry, Ms Vennells said she did not want to use the word “bugs” when referencing the faulty Horizon system in an attempt to be “non-emotive”.

In the 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 Davies exception/anomaly which only manifests itself under unforeseen circumstances xx.”

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

Inquiry counsel Julian Blake previously said the language was “absolutely Orwellian”.

On Thursday, counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC asked: “Did you consider the terms ‘computer bug’ ‘computer glitch’ or ‘computer defect’ to be emotive?”

Ms Vennells replied: “I shouldn’t have engaged at all.”

Mr Beer interjected: “That’s an answer to a different question.”

Ms Vennells said: “No, I realise that but I realise, very clearly, that we should have said ‘bugs’.”

The former chief executive she was “not sure” why she had used the word non-emotive, but “fully accepted” it was wrong.

She told the probe: “I should have said bugs. I should not have sent the email.

“I should have said bugs and so should the rest of the organisation.”

Mr Beer continued: “Why did you ask your husband for non-emotive words for computer bugs?”

Ms Vennells replied: “Because we were looking to find a different word than bugs.”

Mr Beer pressed her: “Yes, but why?”

The ex-Post Office boss said: “Because as I’ve tried to explain, wrongly and stupidly… we were trying to keep the proportionality around two issues that had arisen that were not anything to do with the systemic impact on the system or the Second Sight interim report.”

Mr Beer then asked: “You were seeking to manipulate language here, weren’t you?”

Ms Vennells said: “Yes, we were seeking to use language that I thought described better the situation and avoided confusion and conflation with something that I viewed as completely separate.”

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