Court case linked to Project Eagle hearing is adjourned in Belfast

Case involves Daithí McKay and Jamie Bryson

The case is linked to a Stormont (pictured) committee hearing into the Nama deal. Photograph: iStock

The case is linked to a Stormont (pictured) committee hearing into the Nama deal. Photograph: iStock

 

A court case linked to a Stormont committee hearing into the scandal-hit Nama Project Eagle property deal in the North was adjourned by the Belfast Recorder on Thursday.

The high-profile case involves loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, former Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay and Sinn Féin party member Thomas O’Hara.

The trio have been charged with conspiring to commit misconduct in a public office on dates between September 1st and September 24th, 2015.

The offence alleges that the defendants manipulated the presentation of evidence before a Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel.

All three men were due to be arraigned at Belfast Crown Court today, but the hearing was adjourned after it emerged that two of the accused have sought leave to apply for a Judicial Review into the case.

Also being challenged is a decision to hold the hearing as a Diplock-style trial, which sits without a jury.

Martin O’Rourke, representing Mr McKay, told Judge Fowler QC he has already filed his application regarding the Judicial Review and said: “We are challenging the lawfulness of the return in this case.”

Mr O’Rourke added that as these proceedings have now been launched, it would be “inappropriate” to arraign his client on Thursday.

Mr Bryson – who represented himself at Thursday’s hearing – confirmed he was also seeking leave to apply for a Judicial Review.

He appeared via a videolink and told the Belfast Recorder, a County Court judge, his application will be lodged within the next few days.

The 31-year old told Judge Fowler he was also “seeking further particulars” from the Public Prosecution Service regarding the decision to run the case as a non-jury trial.

Mr Bryson said he was seeking this information so he could make submissions regarding which defendant the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland says warranted a decision to hold a Diplock trial.

He added: “There will certainly be an effort, in some respects, to challenge the issue of a non-jury certificate in this case.”

Challenge

When asked his position, defence barrister Eugene McKenna, representing Thomas O’Hara, said he did not have any “live challenge to the return” and would be “reserving our position in respect of any potential challenge”.

Mr McKenna also said that given the applications made for leave for Judicial Review, it was not appropriate for his client to be arraigned on Thursday.

Judge Fowler then sought the views of the Crown regarding defence requests to adjourn the arraignment.

Toby Hedworth QC said that as two of the three defendants were seeking leave to apply for a Judicial Review, provided there was not “excessive delay”, the Crown was adopting a neutral position.

After listening to all the oral submissions, Judge Fowler said: “I am quite content in this case to adjourn for a short time to see what is happening in relation to the leave proceedings.” He then relisted the case for May 13th. – M&M News Services