Media challenges McKillen's bid for secret hearings

 

PROPERTY DEVELOPER Paddy McKillen’s bid to keep information about his financial dealings out of the public arena during a High Court case in London is to be challenged by a number of newspapers, including The Irish Times.

If the Belfast-born developer is successful in his motion on Monday, it would mean that some of the case where Mr McKillen argues that he was improperly stopped from buying key shares in a luxury London hotel group would be held in private, with just lawyers and Mr Justice David Richards present.

The legal challenge to Mr McKillen’s move will be mounted by The Irish Times, the Irish Independent, the Guardian, the London Times, and the Financial Times. RTÉ is to support a written application to be lodged by the Press Association news agency. On Wednesday, the judge made it clear that he wanted the press to be given time to decide their actions, which led to an agreement between a number of groups yesterday that the application by Mr McKillen should be opposed on public interest grounds.

The full scope of the evidence to be heard in private has not been detailed, although it is believed to cover his financial affairs and his past efforts to raise finance to purchase shares in Coroin, the Maybourne Hotels holding company.

The curbs would apply not just to the press, but also to a number of the parties facing Mr McKillen’s legal action, including the billionaire Barclays brothers and the National Asset Management Agency.

Their legal teams would be entitled to know the information, but they would not.

On Wednesday, the judge extended the membership of “the confidentiality club” of lawyers already in existence to lawyers representing Nama, saying “that it requires strong justification to deprive a party of access to evidence”.

He then went on: “The only downside for Mr McKillen’s side is the risk that there would be leakage from Nama’s lawyers and I regard that as a sufficiently small risk as to be discounted in the circumstances.”