Northern Ireland news

Nama committee accused Jamie Bryson given court date

Jamie Bryson is representing himself in court

A loyalist blogger accused of plotting to subvert a Stormont inquiry into a billion pound property deal has been given a date for his bid to halt the case against him.

Jamie Bryson denies conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, insisting he has no case to answer.

At Belfast Magistrates' Court today a judge agreed to list a Preliminary Inquiry (PI) into the allegations for a hearing on March 30.

Mr Bryson, 30, is expected to challenge the strength of the evidence against him in an attempt to have the charge against him dismissed before any trial.

He is facing criminal proceedings along with former Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay and party member Thomas O'Hara.

All three men are charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office on dates between September 1-24, 2015.     

The case relates to a Stormont probe into the £1.2bn sale of the National Asset Managment Agency (Nama)'s Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment giant Cerberus.

In September 2015 Mr Bryson gave explosive evidence to the Finance Committee examining the deal.

Using parliamentary privilege, he made an unsubstantiated allegation that Peter Robinson, the then DUP First Minister, was set to profit.

Mr Robinson strenuously denied any wrongdoing, insisting that he neither expected nor received any money from the sale.

He branded 30-year-old Mr Bryson's evidence a "pantomime".

At the time Mr McKay was chair of the Finance Committee and seen as a rising star within Sinn Fein's ranks.

But a year later he stood down as an MLA for North Antrim and quit the party.

His resignation followed allegations that he and Mr O'Hara were involved in coaching Mr Bryson ahead of his appearance at the committee.    

Police launched an investigation into the affair following a complaint by senior DUP figure Lord Morrow.

A decision was then taken to prosecute Mr Bryson, of Rosepark in Donaghadee, Co Down; 37-year-old Mr McKay, of Loughan Road in Dunnamanagh, Co Tyrone; and 35-year-old Mr O'Hara, from Lisnahunshin Road in Cullybackey, Co Antrim.

It centres on an alleged conspiracy to subvert the Finance Committee's proceedings by giving evidence that should not have been permitted in open session.

At an earlier hearing it emerged that Mr Bryson intends to call on DUP MLA Jim Wells as a defence witness.

Attempts may also be made to secure the testimony of Lord Morrow.

Mr Bryson, who is representing himself, returned to court today to fix a date for his PI.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to set aside up to three days to deal with all arguments and evidence from witnesses at that stage. 

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