A grandmother who was wrongfully convicted of racially abusing a family of travellers, has won a battle to clear her name.
Community stalwart José Hampson, 78, always maintained she was innocent after four members of the same family said she launched a foul-mouthed torrent of abuse at them when she scraped her car on a gate post.
Last August, Preston Magistrates’ Court heard Michael Linfoot, who lived on a traveller site close to Mrs Hampson’s home, approached her car but as he arrived he claimed the pensioner leapt from her vehicle and lost her temper, using racist and offensive language towards him and his family.
Widowed Mrs Hampson, a former teacher and school governor, said she was horrified to be arrested and interviewed under caution for the allegations but says she had faith in the British justice system that her name would be cleared.
However, when Deputy District Judge James Hatton found Mrs Hampson guilty of the alleged offence and ordered her to pay a £690 fine, £620 costs and a £69 victim surcharge she vowed to fight the conviction which saw her name dragged through the mud.
She says: “I could not believe an innocent person could be found guilty in a British court of law.
“My good character was destroyed in the local paper and shopkeepers and the business community turned their back on me.
“I could not allow this to happen.”
On Friday, Mrs Hampson, who has run Hampson’s Toymaster, Market Street, Chorley, for more than 60 years with her family, appeared at Preston Crown Court to appeal against her conviction.
She says: “I was shaking. I was so nervous but I had to see it through.
“I have had 11 months of worry and shame but what was most important to me is that justice was done and I was vindicated of these vile lies.”
Mrs Hampson now has an unblemished criminal record and no longer has to pay the costs brought against her.
In a statement after hearing, she criticised a decision at her original trial that she could not hand in letters of support of her “good character from important people” until after the judge had given his verdict.
She said: “My good character was destroyed in the papers with headlines ‘Racist shame. Shopkeepers who I had worked for as secretary of the Chamber of Trade turned their backs on me.
“I could not allow this to happen. I therefore announced I would appeal, which would mean going before a judge and two magistrates in Preston Crown Court. It was an ordeal.”
Among the letters of support, she said, were ones from Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle and her doctor.