Northern Ireland news

Jamie Bryson fails in a bid to have judge step aside from hearing a challenge to his ongoing prosecution linked to Nama

Jamie Bryson at the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Alan Lewis -

LOYALIST activist Jamie Bryson has failed in a bid to have a senior judge step aside from hearing a challenge to his ongoing prosecution in connection with a billion-pound property deal.

Mr Bryson currently faces a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office over his evidence to a Stormont inquiry examining the sale of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama)'s Northern Ireland portfolio.

Former Sinn Féin MLA Daithi McKay and party member Thomas O'Hara are accused of the same offence.

Mr McKay is currently seeking to judicially review the decision to have all three men returned for trial.

His loyalist co-accused has also taken steps to challenge the continued prosecution, and mounted an application for the withdrawal of one of the three High Court judges assigned to the case.

Citing administrative administrative issues, Mr Bryson stressed he was making absolutely no allegations against any individual.

But rejecting his request, Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan said:

"Looking at the substance of the case, we don't consider the application for the recusal of Lord Justice Treacy is made out."

In September 2015 Mr Bryson (31) gave evidence to Stormont's Finance Committee - then chaired by Mr McKay - as part of its examination of the Project Eagle deal to sell Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio to US investment giant Cerberus.

A decision was later taken to prosecute Mr McKay, of Loughan Road in Dunnamanagh, Co Tyrone; Mr Bryson, of Rosepark in Donaghadee, Co Down; and 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.

Mr McKay has since stood down as an MLA for North Antrim and quit the party.

Although his challenge to being returned for trial was due to be heard at the High Court today, proceedings were adjourned after judges described papers filed in the case as "unwieldy".

The Lady Chief Justice listed a further review at the end of the month, when it is to tie on with any proceedings brought by Mr Bryson.

Outside court the loyalist said: "Hopefully now we can all move to a substantive hearing.

"The recusal application was not advancing any allegation of impropriety, it was focused on one narrow point."

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Northern Ireland news