Post Office scandal victim settles but feels ‘survivor’s guilt’

Jo Hamilton managed to pay off her mortgage and debts but other victims are still waiting.
Post Office scandal victim settles but feels 'survivor's guilt'
Jo Hamilton

Former sub-postmaster Jo Hamilton has settled with the government over the Horizon IT scandal for an undisclosed sum but says she feels “survivor’s guilt”.

Ms Hamilton said the settlement would pay off her mortgage and debts, but she got less than she had hoped for.

She said she and her husband accepted the offer as they were “exhausted”.

Her story was one of the central strands in the ITV dramatisation which put a fresh spotlight on the scandal.

The mother-of-two was prosecuted for a shortfall of £36,000 at her Post Office in South Warnborough, Hampshire in 2006 and was persuaded to plead guilty to a charge of false accounting.

She took up cleaning jobs, had to mortgage her house twice, borrowed money from friends, and received donations from the local community to pay back the funds.

Her conviction was overturned in 2021 when it was discovered that more than 700 sub-postmasters and postmistresses had been prosecuted because of a faulty accounting system.

Ms Hamilton – who was played by Monica Dolan in the ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office – said she had “mixed feelings” at accepting the compensation offer.

“I almost feel like I’ve got survivor’s guilt, because many of my colleagues that I’ve fought alongside in court, they haven’t been settled,” she said.

But she said her was husband was getting older and she didn’t want him to go into his eighties still waiting for money.

“While I didn’t want to walk away, we were just tired. We had debt around our ears and a large mortgage, all of which has gone now. I think it was the right thing to do.”

Ms Hamilton got 80% of what she wanted, she said.

She added the feeling when her debt disappeared was “just incredible”.

However, she said her claim was reasonable, and the Post Office “shouldn’t be arguing with anybody”, especially as that hikes up legal fees that could be spent on compensation.

“Why can’t they just pay people?” she said.

She began negotiating with the Post Office in 2021, but was initially offered only 20% of what she wanted.

Ministers have vowed to speed up compensation for the victims, with new measures announced last week.

As of 1 February 2024, approximately £160m had been paid to more than 2,700 claimants across three compensation schemes, according to government data.

Jo Hamilton and Monica Dolan on stage to present the award for Song of the Year during the Brit Awards 2024 at the O2 Arena

PA Media

The Department for Business and Trade said the Government is “working as fast as possible to get compensation to every single postmistress and postmaster caught up in this injustice”.

Last week, ministers announced new measures to speed up compensation for victims.

An interim payment of £450,000 will be available to sub-postmasters who had convictions overturned, up from the current level of £163,000.

In addition, legislation to clear sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted is expected to be brought forward within weeks.

Jo Hamilton appeared at the Brit Awards last week, and was joined by Monica Dolan.

On stage at the ceremony, she called for compensation to be sped up for those wrongfully prosecuted.

She told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that Ms Dolan was “just wonderful”.

“Not only is she a brilliant actress, she’s a lovely person,” she said.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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