HIGH-PROFILE Union flag protester Jamie Bryson must prove he was unaware that a series of demonstrations were unlallful, a judge has ruled.
The 24-year-old, pictured above, is charged with taking part in four unnotifed public processions at the height of the dispute in Belfast during January and February last year. Mass protests were being staged at the time over the decision to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at Belfast City Hall. Bryson’s bid to clear his name has been on hold due to a legal dispute over the standerds of proof rerquried in the case. A hearing was adjourned last October at Belfast Magistrates Court amid conflicting opinions on the legislation being uesed 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 unnotifed. Lawyers for Bryson, from Rosepark in Donaghadee, Co Down, argued that he only has to raise the issue of ignorance. They contended that the burden then switchs to the prosectution to establish he knew the demonstrations breached the legislation. But District Judge Fiona Bagnall instead ruled on Monday January 5th 2014, that Bryson must prove, on the balance of probabilities, that he was unaware. He has the opportunity to exonerate himself by showing he did not know or suspect the processions were unlawful, she said. Judge Bagnall also said the legislative provisions have great importance in helping to minimise opportunites for public disorder in the North of Ireland society. Having reached her decision on the preliminary point, the contest is now listed for next month. Bryson, who was in court with two friends, remains on bail until the trail takes place. Defence counsel Richard McConkey also asked for the case to be mentioned again in a week’s time. “This is an important decision and I will have to take instructions in respect of it,” she said.
With many thanks to: The Irish News, for the origional story.