A former sub-postmaster appealing his conviction for fraud-related offences has welcomed new legislation to exonerate Post Office scandal victims.

Lee Williamson ran a Post Office in Portstewart between 2003 and 2012.

His appeal was adjourned today until there is more clarity on how the legislation announced this week will apply in Northern Ireland.

More than 900 people were prosecuted after faulty software made it look like money was missing.

Some went to prison for false accounting and theft, while others were financially ruined.

Mr Williamson described the new laws, which will “swiftly exonerate and compensate victims” as “a welcome development”.

Mr Williamson was convicted in 2014 after a shortfall of £17,000 was discovered on the Horizon system. He lodged his appeal in 2022.

He said he began the process of challenging his conviction as more errors were discovered with the Horizon IT system.

“What has come to light now is that we were fighting an uphill battle to get it to balance,” he said.

“My appeal is still live at this present time, which is why the decision today has been postponed until events from the legislation come to light.

“The new legislation is a welcome development but there’s lots of questions still left to be answered,particularly in Northern Ireland.

“The legislation will initially apply in England and Wales. The legislators in Scotland have come out and stated what they’re going to do but nothing has been mentioned in Northern Ireland, which is why we’re still holding our position in the appeal court.”

Mr Williamson, who received an 18-month sentence, suspended for three years, said his suspension as a sub-postmaster and conviction had a “devastating” effect.

“There’s very few words that you can describe, just the whole feeling of having a job that you enjoy, you held a position that you felt respected in, to have the whole thing taken away from you.

“It had a detrimental impact on my mental health. I was hospitalised for a period; it took a long time to recover.”

Mr Williamson’s solicitor, Michael Madden, said he hoped the new legislation would lead to his client’s conviction being overturned.

“The hearing today was really focused on the new announcement from the prime minister and Downing Street, to see how that proposed new legislation is going to affect Lee’s case,” he said.

“The hope is these proceedings will become academic, as we’re hoping the new legislation will overturn Lee’s conviction.”

Mr Madden added that the case has been listed for review in April.

“Hopefully by then we’ll have a bit more detail on what the proposed legislation is and how that will affect Northern Ireland,” he said.

“We haven’t had any detail at all on how it will enact in Northern Ireland. Obviously the intention was declared that it will be UK wide, and the intention is to have all convictions overturned by the end of this year.

“If that’s the intention we would hope, if the political will is there, that would be made happen either through Westminster or Stormont.”

BBC News