Belfast Telegraph

Cushnahan drops legal claims over BBC Nama programmes

By Alan Erwin

A former banker at the centre of controversy surrounding the £1bn sale of a Northern Ireland property loans portfolio has ended his High Court action against the BBC.

Judgment was entered yesterday for the broadcaster in the lawsuit brought against it by ex-National Assets Management Agency adviser Frank Cushnahan.

Mr Cushnahan sued over the contents of two BBC Spotlight programmes into his alleged involvement in the Nama loan book sale process.

The outcome can be disclosed after a judge lifted reporting restrictions and an anonymity order imposed by the court.

In a statement, Mr Cushnahan's lawyers acknowledged his unsuccessful action against the BBC and Spotlight editor Jeremy Adams was being discontinued.

They now plan to take the government to the European Court of Human Rights for allegedly breaching its Article 6 obligations to ensure a right to a fair trial.

Nama, the Irish Republic's so-called 'bad bank', took control of the portfolio after the 2008 property crash. The Spotlight programmes probed circumstances surrounding a £1bn deal for the sale of the loan book - Project Eagle - six years later. They also examined any role played by Mr Cushnahan and others in advising Nama.

The businessman, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, served on a Nama advice committee dealing with Northern Ireland issues from 2010-13.

Earlier this year, he failed to secure an injunction to stop any further Spotlight reports on his role. At that stage a judge ruled that there was a clear public interest in publication.

Mr Cushnahan's legal action against the BBC and Mr Adams, involving claims of a breach to his Article 6 rights, were finally dropped yesterday.

Following the outcome the broadcaster said it has not apologised, paid damages or any of Mr Cushnahan's legal fees.

Mr Cushnahan's legal representatives claimed he has been the victim of "a sustained attack on his character by many media outlets over the last number of months".

Solicitor Paul Tweed issued a statement stressing his client's full co-operation with all relevant investigatory authorities.

He said: "Though those proceedings have not been successful, the proceedings have exposed the fact that there has been a manifest and compelling failure by the UK government to transpose into domestic law the full protection of his reputation required by the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Article 6.

"Specifically, the proceedings have exposed the fact that because Mr Cushnahan is not the subject of any police bail, his reputation cannot be protected by virtue of the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, notwithstanding that the NCA (National Crime Agency) has not completed its investigation."

He added: "Accordingly, instructions have been received from Mr Cushnahan to pursue an application to the European Court of Human Rights seeking a declaration that the UK is in breach of its obligations under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to transpose into domestic UK law the full protection that Article 6 requires to be provided to him.

"Those proceedings will be issued shortly. In the interim, Mr Cushnahan has decided most reluctantly that to pursue existing proceedings seeking the protection of his reputation through our domestic courts is futile, given the failure of the UK government to provide our courts with sufficient powers by which to protect his reputation."

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