The wife of a post office employee who was accused of mishandling funds in the Post Office Horizon scandal has expressed her grief that he passed away before his reputation could be vindicated.
Vivienne Hammond, who is 88 years old, shared with the Guardian that she was deeply affected by realizing the struggles her late husband, Dennis, likely endured in silence over the course of the last two decades of his life. This was triggered by her viewing of ITV’s dramatization of the post office scandal, where over 2,500 operators were falsely accused of stealing due to a malfunction in the accounting software. The show, titled “Mr Bates vs the Post Office,” has sparked renewed demands for those affected to be cleared of any wrongdoing.
“Attention has been rightfully placed on those who were wrongly accused or suffered job loss, but there are also hundreds of others who were forced to repay money they never took. They too have endured the pain, shame, and lack of acknowledgement for their experiences,” stated Hammond. “My husband never discussed his ordeal with me. He was diagnosed with cancer a few years later and I can’t help but wonder if the stress played a role. It’s indescribable to see his suffering portrayed on screen and know that I was unable to support him through it.”
After working as a village post office operator for 20 years, Dennis Hammond was accused of being responsible for a cash shortage of around £3,000 following the implementation of the Horizon system. As a result, his wages were reduced to cover the missing funds.
Hammond said that the auditor, who was typically amicable, had made an unfriendly visit and mentioned missing funds, but never brought it up again. For years, Hammond assumed there must have been an error that was eventually corrected.
“I used to work as a sub-postmistress in a nearby village and had full faith in the Post Office. However, it wasn’t until 2021, when I learned of the unjust situations faced by other postmasters, that I realized he must have also fallen victim to Horizon. Unfortunately, by then he had passed away and there was no way to assist him.”
Hammond reached out to the Horizon shortfall program, which was created in 2021 to provide compensation to postal operators impacted by the issue. She was trying to clear her late husband’s name, but was informed that the application deadline had already passed. The program had stopped accepting new applicants six months after it was initially launched during the first lockdown in 2020. “We were never notified about a compensation program for those who paid without being convicted,” Hammond stated. “At the time, my focus was on caring for my husband who was battling cancer.”
After the Guardian brought attention to her situation, the Post Office stated that they would review claims submitted after the deadline. As a result, Hammond received compensation for her husband’s behalf, with the stipulation that she sign a non-disclosure agreement. Hammond emphasized that her motivation was not for financial gain, but rather for the principle of clearing her husband’s name. She wanted to make it known that he was not guilty of the accusations made against him. Additionally, she wanted to recognize that the hundreds of others affected by this issue are not just numbers, but individuals with their own stories of suffering.
Hammond expressed feeling a mix of anger towards the Post Office for breaking her trust and guilt for not recognizing her husband’s circumstances.
“My children cannot bring themselves to watch the ITV drama due to its intense nature, but I believe it is our responsibility to witness the suffering endured by the victims,” she stated. “I only wish I had the opportunity to inform my late husband that I understand the struggles he faced, and that I have finally taken all necessary measures to stand by him and clear his name.”