Jamie Bryson enlists former attorney general John Larkin as he prepares legal challenge to trial without jury

A loyalist activist accused of conspiring to subvert a Stormont inquiry into a billion pound property deal is preparing a legal challenge to facing trial without jury.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 3:12 pm
Updated Monday, 24th May 2021, 3:16 pm
Jamie Bryson

Lawyers for Jamie Bryson have taken preliminary steps in a potential High Court case against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Northern Ireland.

Mr Bryson, 31, denies a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office on dates between September 1-24, 2015.

Former Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay, 38, and party member Thomas O’Hara, 36, are accused of the same offence.

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Former attorney general John Larkin

The defendants are already seeking to judicially review the decision to have them returned for Crown Court trial - where Mr Bryson will be representing himself.

But now he has initiated a second possible challenge to the legality of the decision to issue a certificate for a non-jury trial.

Pre-Action Protocol correspondence has been sent to the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast, alleging that the DPP has misdirected himself and asking for the certificate to be rescinded.

Mr Bryson, who has enlisted former Attorney General John Larkin QC for the civil cases, said: “It appears to me that the Director has misdirected himself in applying the criteria for a non-jury trial and has significantly failed to consider the relevant circumstances within the appropriate context.

“It appears incredible that a case which turns on the public interest would be removed from the domain of the public via the denial of a jury trial.”

He confirmed his intention to lodge High Court papers if the request to cancel the certificate is declined.

“Should this not be forthcoming formal proceedings will be issued, with Mr Larkin QC instructed in the challenge.”

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

In September 2015 Mr Bryson gave evidence to the Finance Committee - then chaired by Mr McKay - as part of its examination of the Project Eagle deal.

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