Jo Hamilton: Community Support in the Post Office Scandal

Speaking at the Business and Trade Select Committee in Westminster on January 16, former South Warnborough sub-postmaster Jo answered questions from MPs about the personal impact of the Post Office Horizon scandal, alongside former North East Hampshire MP Lord James Arbuthnot.

1 Jo Hamilton

Jo Hamilton is a notable figure in the Post Office Horizon scandal, which has been described as one of the largest miscarriages of justice in the UK. Hamilton, a former sub-postmistress from South Warnborough, Hampshire, was wrongfully accused of stealing £36,000 due to faults in the Horizon IT system used by the Post Office. The system’s errors led to false accounting and theft charges against hundreds of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses, including Hamilton.

Despite her innocence, Hamilton felt coerced into pleading guilty to false accounting in 2008 to avoid prison. This plea was influenced by the immense pressure and lack of support she faced, including the threat of a more severe charge of theft. To cover the alleged shortfalls, she had to remortgage her home, borrow money from friends and family, and endure severe financial hardship. The local community even held a whip-round to help her pay the demanded amounts​ (Haslemere Herald)​​ (Woman and Home Magazine)​.

Hamilton’s conviction was eventually quashed in 2021 after it was revealed that the Horizon system was indeed flawed, exonerating her and many others. Since then, she has been a vocal advocate for justice and compensation for all affected sub-postmasters. Hamilton’s fight continues, as many victims have yet to receive adequate compensation or acknowledgment of the full extent of their suffering​ (Haslemere Herald)​​ (Woman and Home Magazine)​.

Hamilton’s story was prominently featured in the ITV drama “Mr. Bates vs The Post Office,” which brought wider public attention to the scandal. She remains actively involved in efforts to secure full compensation for the victims and to highlight the ongoing impact of the scandal on their lives​ (Woman and Home Magazine)​.

2 Lord James Arbuthnot

Lord James Arbuthnot, the former MP for North East Hampshire, played a crucial role in advocating for justice in the Post Office Horizon scandal, particularly in supporting his constituent, Jo Hamilton. Hamilton, a sub-postmistress falsely accused of theft due to flaws in the Horizon IT system, sought Arbuthnot’s help in 2009. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Arbuthnot raised her case and those of others with then-Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, highlighting the severe financial and personal hardships they faced due to the erroneous accusations.

Arbuthnot persistently pressed the government and the Post Office for accountability. Despite initial government dismissals, which claimed no responsibility and assured that the Horizon system had been thoroughly investigated, Arbuthnot continued to push for a thorough review. His efforts were instrumental in bringing wider attention to the scandal and in the eventual overturning of wrongful convictions, including Hamilton’s​ (Hansard Society)​​ (Evening Standard)​.

In the years following, Arbuthnot remained a key figure in the campaign for justice. He served on the Horizon Compensation Advisory Board, working to ensure that affected sub-postmasters received proper compensation and that the full extent of the miscarriage of justice was acknowledged and addressed​ (Evening Standard)​.

3 The small village of only 600 inhabitants

The small village of South Warnborough played a significant role in supporting Jo Hamilton during her ordeal with the Post Office Horizon scandal. When Hamilton, the local sub-postmistress, was wrongfully accused of theft due to the faulty Horizon IT system, the village community rallied around her, demonstrating remarkable solidarity and support.

Hamilton faced immense financial pressure, having to remortgage her house and borrow money to cover the alleged shortfalls caused by the IT system errors. The villagers, understanding her innocence and the unfairness of her situation, organized a whip-round to help her pay the demanded amounts​ (Haslemere Herald)​​ (Woman and Home Magazine)​. This act of community support was crucial in providing Hamilton with some financial relief and moral support during her challenging times.

Additionally, the local community’s backing was not just financial but also emotional. The villagers’ belief in Hamilton’s integrity and their collective efforts to support her underscored the strong community bonds in South Warnborough. Their support was a testament to the close-knit nature of the village and their willingness to stand by one of their own in the face of injustice​ (Woman and Home Magazine)​.

4 The vicar

During Jo Hamilton’s court appearance related to the Post Office Horizon scandal, her local vicar played a significant role by providing moral support and even speaking on her behalf. The vicar’s involvement was an important element of the community’s solidarity with Hamilton. On the day of the court proceedings, the vicar accompanied Hamilton to court and delivered a heartfelt speech before the judge. This speech emphasized Hamilton’s integrity, the unjust nature of the accusations against her, and the strong support she had from her local community in South Warnborough.

The vicar’s speech and presence underscored the collective belief in Hamilton’s innocence and highlighted the communal bonds that helped sustain her through her legal ordeal. This act of support was a testament to the strength and unity of the small village, reflecting their unwavering belief in Hamilton’s character despite the severe accusations she faced​ (Yahoo News UK)​​ (The Mirror)

5 The podcasts

The UK’s “Post Office Scandal” – Jo Hamilton


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18 okt 2023

For the past twenty years, the UK has been grappling with the aftermath of the notorious “Post Office scandal,” which has affected countless innocent individuals. In 2000, the Horizon IT system was introduced to modernise the Post Office network, but its rollout led to a barrage of wrongful convictions for fraud, theft, and false accounting. Despite technological advancements in digital payments and optimised accounting, the system frequently flagged accounting discrepancies due to bugs and errors, resulting in harsh punitive measures taken against subpostmasters and staff. Consequently, thousands of innocent people lost their jobs, homes, and freedom.
The Post Office and its lawyers attempted to cover up the scandal by withholding crucial information about Horizon in court cases, leaving many of the victims without justice or compensation.

YouTube video and social media content created by the Scribul marketing agency:

00:00 – Intro
02:27 – Life before the post office scandal
06:04 – When did you take over the post office
06:33 – What was Horizon designed to do
07:16 – What were you accused of
09:57 – How did you end up owing £36,000
15:29 – How did you cover the deficit
17:52 – Why didn’t she tell her family
19:09 – The hidden truth
20:08 – Facing criminal proceedings
24:06 – Getting prosecuted
27:12 – Pleading guilty of false accounting
29:41 – Multiple victims & village support
33:35 – Creating a victims group
36:53 – Life after being prosecuted
40:27 – Finding out that Horizon was the issue
43:04 – How was your conviction overturned
47:09 – Other people being convicted
50:52 – Dealing with being wrongfully accused
53:50 – Do you accuse anybody
57:15 – Outro18 okt 2023

Why would you do that (in the part Dealing with being wrongfully accused)

Former Sub-postmistress Jo Hamilton: Giving Evidence Against The Post Office | Good Morning Britain

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Jo Hamilton (Former Post Office Sub-Postmistress) Interviewed Live On BBC Breakfast [11.01.2024]

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Mr Bates Vs the Post Office: Star Monica Dolan & the Real-Life Jo Hamilton Tell All | This Morning

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EX-Post Office Boss Paula Vennells Faces the Horizon IT Inquiry

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Jo Hamilton ‘Continues to Fight’ as Post Office Scandal Inquiry Resumes

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20 apr 2018