Bryson's done nothing wrong, says pastor whose signature BBC alleges loyalist 'forged'
A pastor has moved to defend loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson over allegations that he forged a signature on the accounts of a charity.
Mark Gordon of the Shiloh Christian Fellowship said that Mr Bryson has “not done anything wrong”.
The BBC reported that a top hand-writing expert concluded that the blogger and activist “forged” Mr Gordon’s signature in accounts for the West Winds Social and Cultural Institution (WWSCI) in Newtownards.
Mr Bryson strongly denied the claim and said the allegation was part of a BBC plan to discredit him.
He is employed as a development worker at the group, which works to raise “an awareness of the culture, history and identity” of those living and visiting the area.
The group’s accounts for 2017/18, totalling £25,000, were signed in the name of Mr Gordon and also included his address.
However, the BBC has employed one of the UK’s leading handwriting experts who found that the handwriting did not match a previous sample of Mr Gordon’s.
Graphologist Elaine Quigley said that the two signatures used on the accounts were written by different people.
“There is no relationship at all. It’s definitely two different people,” she claimed.
Ms Quigley then compared the handwriting with a sample of Mr Bryson’s from a previous Parades Commission form he had filled in.
“In my experience of 40 years of graphology, I would say without any hesitation that this writing is done by the same person,” she said.
Mr Gordon said that he could confirm that he “independently examined the WWSCI accounts for 2016/17 and 2017/18 and found them to give a true and fair view of all transactions for the said periods”.
“All relevant information requested was provided to me without question and any queries answered. I would be happy to undertake this role again,” he said.
The pastor said that if the BBC believed a criminal offence had been committed they should refer it to the PSNI.
Mr Gordon said for an offence of forgery to be committed “requires prejudice caused to another and also to have been carried out without my express authority and permission”.
“The BBC have not spoken to me ‘on the record’ or demonstrated any of these essential elements of an allegation of forgery,” he said.
“I can categorically state that I believe Mr Bryson has not done anything wrong and I will be happy to meet with the PSNI and/or Charity Commission to answer any questions they might have.”
Mr Bryson said the story was part of a “smear campaign”, and denied “forging” the signature.
“Should the police want to speak to me about any matter, including these allegations that the BBC are putting forward, then they should refer that to the PSNI and I will happily meet with the PSNI,” he told the BBC.
“This comes three or four days after I wrote an extremely critical article about the BBC newsroom and I think anyone with any sense will look at the timing of this and see it precisely for what it is.”
As a registered charity the WWSCI submits it accounts annually to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.
The commission’s rules say that it is an offence “to knowingly or recklessly supply the commission with information which is false or misleading”.
However, the commission said that it could not confirm whether it is currently investigating WWSCI. “This is because the commission is an effective and fair regulator of Northern Ireland charities and, as such, would not wish to prejudice any current or potential investigation,” a spokesperson said.
The BBC reported that it has been confirmed that the charity is being investigated as a letter from a public representative, who reported the issue to the commission, said that the watchdog “already has an open enquiry file in connection with this charity. We are examining a number of issues, including that which you have brought to our attention”.
A BBC spokesperson said: “This story is in the public interest. Mr Bryson was given an extensive right of reply, including a broadcast interview.”