A GRANDMOTHER has blamed the Post Office for causing stress resulting in both her parents suffering a stroke after it accused her of stealing £36,000. 

Jo Hamilton appeared in Panorama – The Post Office Scandal which was broadcast last week telling of the “most widespread miscarriage of justice in British legal history” which saw hundreds of men and women who ran post offices across the country accused of losing or stealing money.

Read more: Jo Hamilton will continue her fight for compensation 

The investigation told the story of those whose lives were devastated and revealed damning evidence that was kept from them.

Between 2000 and 2014, more than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted based on information from the Horizon system, installed and maintained by Fujitsu.

In December 2019, a High Court judge ruled that the Horizon system contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were caused by the system.

The BBC investigated how and why the truth was covered up for so long by the Post Office, the government, and Fujtsu.

Jo, a former sub-postmaster from South Warnborough, pleaded guilty in 2008 to false accounting for fear of going to prison.

However, documents shown to her by Panorama revealed that the Post Office knew she had never stolen any money.

The 64-year-old mother-of-two had her conviction for false accounting overturned at the Royal Courts of Justice last year.

An inquiry into the scandal began in September 2020 which will provide a public summary of the failings which occurred with the Horizon IT system at the Post Office.

Jo gave evidence at the inquiry in February and, in a witness statement, told how it had impacted her family.

She said: “As a family, we have had to survive this horrendous ordeal, having to beg and borrow money wherever we could.”

She added: “I am drained and tired. I have lost the best years of my life. These years have been stolen from me and from my family. I feel worn down, but I am so angry about what happened.”

Jo said she felt “furious” upon discovering a report had been hidden pre-sentencing which could have cleared the charges.

“The anger burns,” she said, adding: “People should be accountable, but I understand this is unlikely.”

Referring to the damage caused to her reputation, Jo told the inquiry: “My reputation was damaged beyond repair, and this causes me considerable pain and embarrassment even today. The national and local papers covered my conviction, so I had to deal with this adverse publicity. It has been very damaging. People lose faith after a conviction and whilst I had a lot of support from the local community, I could feel this fading.”

Speaking to BBC Panorama, Jo recalled seeing her story on the front page of the Basingstoke Gazette at the time of her conviction.

Jo said the ordeal also affected her family, including her parents who were “deeply involved in helping financially and emotionally”.

She believes the stress of it all caused them to become ill, telling the inquiry: “They both suffered with a stroke within three months of each other and both subsequently passed away after battling cancer.

“My parents had to live through all the horror with me, and they passed away before my conviction was formally quashed and I was vindicated. They passed away in debt.”

Jo said in her witness statement that she has been “violated” adding: “Eighteen years have been stolen from me, to say nothing of the money that was taken and the wider impact on those close to me. My parents went to their graves without knowing that I would ever be exonerated – that can never be rectified.

“The Post Office has blood on their hands.”

She added: "I do blame my mum and dad having strokes on the stress."

The inquiry is expected to conclude later this year.

The Post Office has been asked for a comment.

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