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Postmistress felt she had to grovel for compensation after two-decade fight

Feeling she had to grovel for compensation only deepened Jo Hamilton’s anguish after a two-decade fight with the Post Office.

It was only three weeks ago the final payment was received, she revealed to Sky News.

And the sub-postmistresses, whose wrongful conviction was central to the TV drama about the faulty accounting scandal, fears other victims are still facing a “wicked” system.

It is why she was not shocked to read disputed claims on Sunday by former Post Office chairman Henry Staunton that payments are being slowed by the government to limit outgoings ahead of the election.

“We’ve been fighting this war now for decades, and this is the kind of behaviour we’ve just known to expect,” Ms Hamilton told Sky News at her Hampshire home.

“We listened to the government’s warm words over and over and over again, saying they’re sorting out the money at pace, they’re going to be fair with the postmasters and none of it is true.”

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch insists speeding up compensation payments are a government priority and the Sunday Times interview featured lies from Mr Staunton – who she ousted from the Post Office after barely a year as chairman.

Mr Staunton was not available for an interview when approached by Sky News on Sunday ahead of Ms Badenoch’s tweets.

One solution to this strand of the scandal, according to Ms Hamilton, is taking the compensation fund out of the government’s hands.

“There must be commercial companies that could deal with it,” she said.

“Nobody believes the government anymore. And the way they’ve treated the postmasters is disgraceful and it’s cruel. People are getting older. As if it hasn’t gone on long enough, they’re still trying not to pay the group.”

The government insists it welcomes compensation claims, while the Post Office backs faster redress for victims.

But has the culture that led to one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice changed?

“The whole culture of the company is they still think it’s where the postmasters are thieving and it’s just wicked,” Ms Hamilton said.

“We beat them in court in 2018 and 2019. We had the two judgements in 2019 and it’s now 2024 and they… are still fighting the group. Still fighting for their money.”

Jo Hamilton
Image: Ms Hamilton said she wasn’t shocked by Henry Staunton’s claims

Ms Hamilton was charged with theft and false accounting after a £36,000 shortfall was discovered at her post office in South Warnborough, Hampshire in 2006. She agreed to plead guilty to the lesser charge of false accounting and was given a 12-month community order. Her conviction was quashed in 2021.

And now the focus is helping other Post Office victims overturn convictions for theft and fraud caused by the faulty Fujitsu accounting system.

It is a gruelling mission but one she is determined to continue with Alan Bates, whose campaign for justice inspired last month’s four-part ITV drama that sparked government intervention midway through the long-running independent inquiry into the scandal.

Read more:
Fujitsu ‘to have received £3.4bn in Treasury-linked deals active since 2019’
Former Post Office clerk cleared of fraud linked to Horizon scandal

“It’s really hard not to let it consume me because it’s so unfair what they’ve done to people and what they’re still putting people through is disgusting,” Ms Hamilton said.

“I obviously have a platform because of the drama. I can’t leave my colleagues behind because without them, I wouldn’t be here. We’re in it together.

“Alan, of all the people, they still put up a fight with Alan. They should know him by now. Really?”

Sky News Source