Northern Ireland

Jamie Bryson convicted over union flag protests

Jamie Bryson Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Jamie Bryson photographed addressing loyalist protesters at Belfast City Hall

The high-profile union flag protester Jamie Bryson has been found guilty of taking part in unlawful public processions.

He rose to prominence during a campaign against Belfast City Council's decision in December 2012 to limit the number of days the flag flies from the city hall.

The 24-year-old was also convicted of obstructing traffic during one of the demonstrations staged in Belfast.

Bryson, of Rosepark, Donaghadee, County Down, will be sentenced next month.

He had denied a series of charges linked to the loyalist street protests, claiming he was the victim of a political prosecution.

'Lacked credibility'

However, the judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court rejected claims that Bryson had only been present as an individual at the protests, and as such was unaware the events could have been illegal.

"The defendant's evidence lacked any real substance or credibility on any of the issues relevant to the case," she said.

"In my opinion he was at pains to try and misinterpret statements of senior police in order to attempt to pass responsibility for his actions to the police as opposed to accepting responsibility for his own actions."

The charges included four counts of participating in four un-notified public processions during January and February 2013, and obstructing traffic on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.

'Gay relationship'

In his evidence, Bryson said he did not know the protests could have been unlawful.

He accepted he had been filmed in CCTV footage of the marches, but said that on each occasion, he had walked to and from the centre of Belfast as an individual.

During the trial, prosecution counsel accused him of treating police with contempt when he was interviewed about the offences.

Image caption During the trial, the court heard claims that Bryson treated police with contempt in interviews, suggesting he was in a fictional gay relationship with fellow flag campaigner Willie Frazer

The court heard that the loyalist campaigner told officers he was an Irish republican and the first minister of Northern Ireland.

He also suggested to police that he was in a fictional gay relationship with fellow flag campaigner Willie Frazer, it was claimed.

In a highly unusual move, one of Northern Ireland's most senior police officers was called to give evidence as part of the defence case.

'Closely involved'

ACC Will Kerr told the court he agreed to meet Bryson and loyalist community representatives as part of efforts to ensure their weekly demonstrations did not break the law.

The officer also said he warned those at the meeting on 29 January, 2013 of the "criminal justice consequences" of taking part in un-notified public processions.

Delivering her verdict, the judge said Bryson was "closely involved in the arrangements regarding the protests".

"I do not accept his explanation that he did not know the status of the processions in question," she added.

Convicting him on all charges, Mrs Bagnall said CCTV footage of the protests showed Bryson standing with others in the middle of the road.

Bryson was released on continuing bail to return for sentencing in four weeks time.

Related Topics