Businessman 'will use trial to address bank's conduct'
A Westcountry businessman who is facing harassment charges says he wants to use the court hearing to reveal details of alleged wrongdoing by the NatWest bank which he says caused his hotel to be repossessed.
Paul Nightingale will represent himself at Exeter Magistrates' Court today on a charge of harassment relating to letters he sent to the home address of his former bank manager, in Exeter.
Mr Nightingale previously ran The Royal Beacon Hotel, in Exmouth, for eight years, taking it from a 26-bedroom business with a turnover of £450,000 to a 52-bedroom hotel with 64 employees and a turnover of almost £2 million.
To finance the hotel and other business interests, Mr Nightingale took out a total of eight interest rate swap loans with monthly repayments rising from £5,800 to £25,000.
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Although he says he never missed a repayment, NatWest called in receivers to repossess the hotel in December 2011 for breach of covenant after a revaluation of the business resulted in a lower loan to value amount.
It is still trading in the hands of receivers while a High Court compensation claim brought by Mr Nightingale via Exeter-based Prydis in January is determined. As yet, no date has been set for this hearing.
Mr Nightingale has previously sought to raise awareness of the issue with Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, at its AGM in Edinburgh last year.
At the meeting, Mr Nightingale, an RBS shareholder, told the chairman that many small businesses were in "severe financial difficulties" as a result of mis-selling, and asked him if he felt that the banks had learned lessons as a result. He said at the meeting: "Personally my breakage charges have been in excess of £1.2 million. That is crippling me in every respect. There are thousands of businesses in the UK that RBS is forcing into administration – it is absolutely unsustainable what is happening."
Earlier this year, Mr Nightingale launched a website, called bankerorspanker.com, where he details allegations against the bank and invites others to share their experiences.
Mr Nightingale, who has previously pleaded not guilty to the harassment charge, said he has opted to represent himself in court on Monday so that he will have the opportunity to put wider allegations about NatWest's conduct to his alleged victim. The businessman said his life had been "completely destroyed" as a result of the swap loans. A spokesman for RBS said the bank did not wish to comment.