THE ‘horrendous ordeal’ of a former sub-postmaster who was forced to beg and borrow money wherever she and her family could after being accused of stealing £36,000 by the Post Office will be told in a new ITV drama.

Jo Hamilton, who ran the Post Office in South Warnborough, pleaded guilty in 2008 to false accounting for fear of going to prison, but Jo, 66, had been a victim of the Horizon Post Office Scandal, where a faulty accounting system led to more than 700 sub-postmasters being prosecuted.

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.

READ MORE: Former sub-postmaster Jo Hamilton on BBC Panorama

When Jo’s conviction was finally quashed in 2021 by the Royal Courts of Justice, villagers welcomed her home with bunting and champagne.

Now, her tale will be told in a new ITV four-part drama Mr Bates v The Post Office, which will lay bare what has been called the “most widespread miscarriage of justice in British legal history”.

In the series, viewers will see how Jo – desperate and humiliated by the sheer amount of money she “owed” the Post Office – pleaded guilty to false accounting after trying to hide the deficit by manually overriding her accounts.

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

Jo gave evidence at the inquiry in February last year 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.”

SEE ALSO: South Warnborough sub-postmistress speaks at inquiry into Post Office scandal

Basingstoke Gazette: Jo Hamilton at the Horizon InquiryMother of two Jo 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.”

In the drama, Jo is played by Bafta-winning actress Monica Dolan, whom she met during production.

Speaking about the scandal, Dolan said: “I definitely remember seeing it on the news, and being really shocked when people had gone to prison and had criminal convictions because they weren’t believed that there was a bug in the system that was creating these discrepancies."

SEE MORE: South Warnborough woman's Post Office conviction overturned

Basingstoke Gazette: Monica Dolan as Jo Hamilton in Mr Bates vs The Post OfficeSub-postmasters, including Jo, who were unwilling or unable to make good the shortfalls were prosecuted by the Post Office for theft, false accounting and fraud.

“Jo seems to have been the sort of person, if there was someone who came in and had something wrong with their plumbing, or something wrong at home, or her husband’s a gardener, you know, they’d go out and they would help people,” said Dolan.

“So she was asked to run the Post Office… all of this Horizon system was coming in just at the time that she was taking over.

“She had no idea that it wasn’t her that was at fault. And why would you think it wasn’t you, if that’s what you’re being told, and your experience in your life isn’t specifically with figures or anything?”

Originally charged with theft, Jo was told that if she repaid the money and pleaded guilty to false accounting, she’d be less likely to go to prison, and that she was the only person who had had these problems with her system.

Jo had to remortgage her house to repay the money.

“I got the impression from some parts of the script that she hadn’t told her family anything until she asked if they could remortgage the house – but then other parts it seemed like she had, so I asked her,” says Dolan.

“And she said: ‘No, no, I hadn’t told my family’.

“I said: ‘Why didn’t you tell your family that you got into that much debt, and that you were experiencing these terrible problems, before you had to ask to remortgage the house?’

“And she just said, very quietly: ‘I thought it was me, and I felt ashamed’.”

Jo has received an interim compensation payment but has vowed to continue campaigning on behalf of other victims.

 Mr Bates vs The Post Office is on ITV1 and ITVX next month.