Wednesday, August 30, 2006

East Belfast news - Charges against Philip Johnston dropped

From BBC NI news ...

Philip Johnston - the East Belfast estate agent accused of involvement in money laundering during a police probe into the financial affairs of murdered loyalist Jim Gray - has had all charges against him dropped.

Johnston's arrest in April 2005 led to him selling off his estate agency chain - it morphed into the brown-signed MCW Residential, bought out by three of the managers. (If I recall correctly, one of Johnston's colleagues paid his bail when he was first arrested.)

Earlier today, Johnston's lawyers were told in Belfast Magistrates Court that the Public Prosecution Service had dropped the case. No reason was given.

Johnston's solicitor, Joe Rice, said: "Mr Johnston is now considering his options, including compensation, to restore him to the position he was in 17 months ago ... He wants answers to several questions and has already lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman's Office."

It will be interesting to hear if the PPS make any comment on their decision to drop the case, and whether they clear his name of the rumours and baggage that will otherwise continue to abound.

7 comments:

Cybez said...

"No reason was given" makes me wonder why? Bigger fish to catch?Who'll go down next?

rupertblue said...

'The PPS have dropped the case' is a little misleading. Johnston would have been on police holding charges, which a PPS lawyer may have considered unviable due to a lack of evidence. The other possibility is that a high-ranking informer may be being protected, as in the case of the 'Stormont spy' debacle. Who knows? One thing for certain - we never will.

John Self said...

Johnston must be presumed innocent, and the colleagues and friends he says he lost clearly overlooked that. There may well have been some evidence against him (he's unlikely to have been charged in the first place otherwise), but clearly not enough to make the PPS think a conviction was probable. I think the possibilities of him or his lawyers getting answers to 'several questions' or any mileage out of a complaint to the Ombudsman is unlikely; charges are dropped against people all the time without explanation. Does Johnston think he deserves better treatment than anyone else?

I can't pretend to have a lot of sympathy for Johnston. I know people who have worked for him, and who have dealt with him personally and professionally, and none would have many good things to say about him.

Cybez said...

There's so many in the property/building game here in NI that think they're above the law and I reckon are hated by the vast majority of the public. I'm sure a lot of people are sad and annoyed about the outcome of this case (so far)

John Self said...

I don't think hatred of estate agents is restricted to Northern Ireland...

John Self said...

Watched Johnston's appearance on Spotlight last night. I'm sure, if he'd tried, he could have come across as a little more cold and aggressive. But not much.

Rosana Balbino said...

when a man is slandered and lose everything he built in his life after that is found not guilty and receives a symbolic amount of indemnification for moral damages. seems to have been wronged and sentenced to lose his position, his job and everything. And yet there are people wanting to happen more injustice, evil has grown in this world lacking the desire to destroy the next