Former sub postmaster Lee Williamson with his solicitor Michael Madden

Former sub postmaster Lee Williamson, left, with his solicitor Michael Madden outside the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday where he was attending for the latest stage in his legal battle to clear his name.

A former sub-postmaster from Co Tyrone caught up in the Horizon IT scandal is “within touching distance” of finally having his wrongful conviction overturned, he has declared.

Lee Williamson attended the Court of Appeal as part of an ongoing battle to clear his name, boosted by confirmation that legislation to exonerate innocent victims will be extended to Northern Ireland.

Senior judges adjourned the case to await further developments at Westminster.

Following the hearing Mr Williamson expressed hope that the new laws will mean his legal battle becomes academic.

“At this stage nothing has been quashed, but I’m looking forward to that day. It’s within touching distance now,” he said.

Mr Williamson (49) is among 26 postmasters from Northern Ireland charged after defective Horizon computer software calculated that money was missing from their branches.

In 2014 he was convicted of fraud by false representation offences and given an 18-month suspended sentence.

It was claimed that he had stolen and falsified accounting records in his role running a Post Office in Portstewart.

Charges were brought against him after an audit uncovered an alleged shortfall of £17,000.

More than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted by the Post Office between 1999 and 2015 for similar accounting errors.

Criminal proceedings were based on data from the faulty Horizon software which made it appear money was missing from branches.

It has been described as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British history.

The scandal was thrust back into the spotlight after ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office sparked a public outcry and renewed pressure on the British government to intervene.

Earlier this week the government confirmed new legislation to quash the wrongful convictions will also apply here.

In court yesterday, counsel for the Public Prosecution Service, Philip Henry KC, speculated that it may be in place by July.

“If there was some degree of legislative certainty that might bring a certain course to continuing this appeal,” he said.

Adjourning the case, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan decided against listing any further reviews at this stage.

“If the legislation takes the course which is thought, that will deal with all of these types of cases,” she pointed out.

Speaking outside court, Mr Williamson described his surprise at the developments and praised the efforts of the Stormont Executive to ensure postmasters in Northern Ireland will be included.

He also expressed regret at pleading guilty to the offences he was charged with.

“At that time I was recovering from a mental health breakdown,” he explained.

“The lack of disclosure from the Post Office left us with very little to fight the case with and [it was felt] that I wasn’t robust enough to withstand a trial.”

His solicitor Michael Madden urged others in the same situation to come forward.

“Hopefully this is the final piece of encouragement for those who are still out there, that they can have their convictions overturned,” said Mr Madden.

Irish News