HIGH-PROFILE Union flag protester Jamie Bryson’s trial for allegedly taking part in unlawful public processions has been put on hold over a legal dispute.
The 24-year-old’s bid to clear his name centres on whether or not he knew that no notification had been given for the demonsttrations. But a contested hearing due to get underway yesterday at Belfast Magistrates Court was adjourned after opposing lawyers raised preliminary issues about the standard of proof required. Bryson, pictured above, from Rosepark in Donaghadee, Co Down, is accused of four counts of taking part in unnotified public processions during January and February last year. At the time mass demonstrations were being staged in Belfast over the decision to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall. Bryson also faces a further charge of obstructing traffic on the Newtownards Road in the east of the city. The courtroom at the magistrates court was packed yesterday with family and friends of the accused. Among those there to support him were DUP councillor Ruth Patterson and victims campaigner Willie Frazer, pictured right. But as Bryson entered the dock conflicting opinions emerged on the legislation being used to prosecute him. The Public Processions (North of Ireland) Act 1998 includes a defence to the charge if the accused did not know or suspect the event was unnotified. Bryson’s lawyers contend he only has to prove his ignorance on the balance of probabilities, and that the prosecution has to establish its contrary case to the higher standard of beyond all reasonable doubt. Prosecution counsel stressed the potential significance for a wide range of parade-related cases. With both sides seeking an adjournment, District Judge Amanda Henderson agreed that the preliminary issue should be decided before the contest can proceed. Bryson was then released on continuing bail to return for his trial at a later date.
With many thanks to: The Irish News.