It is believed to be the first time that the charge, part of the 2007 Serious Crime Act, has been used in the North of Ireland. The controversial campaigner, who appeared on the court listings as William Fredrick Frazer, is also charged with three counts of taking part in an unnotified parade, one of obstructing traffic, and illegal possession of a Taser stun-gun. Mr Frazer, who has been a spokesman for flag protesters since the start of the dispute in early December, was arrested at his home on Tandragee Road on Wednesday. The majority of the offences are alleged to have been committed under the Public Processions Act over the last two months, during weekly protests held at the front of Belfast City Hall.Police objected to bail on the grounds that Mr Frazer would reoffend given that there are further planned protests. An officer who connected him to the case also said there were concerns that through public speaking and interviews with the media he would encourage others to commit further criminal offences. A small crowd of supporters gathered in the public gallery of Court 10, including North Belfast loyalist and Ulster People’s Forum spokesman Bill Hill.
One man was removed from the court by security officials for waving a Union Flag. Acting on behalf of Mr Frazer, barrister Richard Smyth argued that his client had urged the crowd at the city hall to ” keep it peaceful “. ” What this applicant is alleged to have said at the scene wasn’t in any way inflammatory,” he said. The lawyer said his client had taken the Taser from young people involved in a dispute in Markethill several years ago. ” He believed it was a cattle prodder that didn’t work,” Mr Smyth said. ” This man’s profile, and I accept he does have a profile, has brought him before the court. ” At no point was he aware that the protests were unlawful.” He added that to date no-one had been charged with organising the flags protests. Mr Smyth also drew the notice to the court to an Irish News interview with Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr last week in which the senior officer said he would welcome ” judicial clarity ” around the Public Processions Act.
District Judge Mervyn Bates, sitting in Belfast’s Laganside Court, said he would not be happy preventing a member of society from speaking to the media. However, he added that due to the current climate and the risk of reoffending, Mr Frazer was not a suitable candidate for bail. ” The grounds of objection are founded on the frequency of this kind of offence at the current time and the harm it is doing to the economy of this country “, he said. He did, however, advise the defendant that he could apply for bail at the High Court. As he was being taken to the cells by court security Mr Frazer shouted : ” I’d rather be with the crooks in there than the ones out here running the government.” Supporters cheered as he was led away. Mr Frazer was remanded in custody to Maghaberry prison to appear again in four weeks ‘ time.
The former community worker and chairman of the Ulster People’s Forum was charged by detectives last night after being arrested on Thursday following a 30-hour hunt by police. It was claimed on a loyalist social media site last night and also in the Newsletter that Mr Bryson had begun a hunger-Strike in police custody. The Co Down man was arrested by officers from Operation Dulcet which is investigating disorder surrounding protests which started three months ago when Belfast City councillors voted to reduce the number of days the Union Flag will be flown at the city hall.
A LEADING Republican and a prominent loyalist are to appear before the same Belfast court today charged with separate high-profile offences, Sean Hughes (51),once named a member of the Provisional IRA‘s army council, was charged last night in connection with the 2005 murder of Robert McCartney in South Belfast. The charges are linked to an internal IRA investigation alleged to have taken place following the murder of Mr McCartney. Flags protest organiser Willie Frazer (52), was charged yesterday in connection with widespread loyalist demonstrations over changes to the flaying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall.
He is to appear before Belfast Magistrates Court today charged with three counts of taking part in an un-notified public procession and obstructing traffic in a public place. He was arrested in the Tandragee Road area of Markethill, Co Armagh, on Wednesday this week. Police announced the charges against Mr Frazer just hours after his fellow protest leader Jamie Bryson was arrested in Bangor. The 23-year-old had previously taunted police about their apparent inability to arrest him. Officers had searched his home and workplace and seized his car on Wednesday, but could not find the loyalist poster boy. He was still being questioned last night.
Sean Hughes is to appear before Belfast Magistrates Court this morning charged with addressing a meeting for the purpose of encouraging a proscribed organisation. He was arrested at his family farm in Jonesborough, South Armagh, on Wednesday and taken to Antrim police station. He is the second mainstream republican to be held in connection with the McCartney case in recent months. In November, West Belfast man Padraic Wilson was charged with membership of the Provisional IRA and holding a meeting in support of the organisation. Sinn Fein held a protest at PSNI headquarters in east Belfast following the arrest of Mr Wilson. He is on bail awaiting trial on the charges which he has denied. Both arrests came after the sisters and partner of Mr McCartney, who campaigned for justice in the aftermath of his death, made fresh statements to police in relation to meetings they held with the IRA following the 2005 murder of the 33-year-old at a Belfast City Centre bar. Mr Hughes is a veteran republican and a long-time supporter of Sinn Fein. In 2009 the Serious Organised Crime Agency froze assets belonging to him and five members of his family. The move was criticised by then Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy who said he was a long-time friend of the “sound republican”. In 2002 Peter Robinson used parliamentary privilege to name Mr Hughes as a member of the IRA army council, an allegation he has denied.
LEADING flag protesterWillie Frazer last night insisted that he was still a spokesman for the Ulster People’s Forum after a ” heated ” showdown with chairman Jamie Bryson. On Wednesday Mr Bryson issued a statement on behalf of the group saying it ” no longer validates Willie Frazer as a spokesperson “.
However, the controversial victims campaigner said he did still speak for the forum after meeting Mr Bryson and other members at a Belfast hotel yesterday. The forum was set up by angry loyalist in the weeks after December 3 when Belfast City Council voted to restrict the flying of the Union Flag at the city hall to 18 designated days each year. Since then the forum has been central in organising flag protests across the north. Sources said yesterday’s meeting was ” heated ” and that at times voices were raised as the two men clashed over the form’s future. However, they appeared together afterwards to say they had put their disagreement behind them and were now ” fully united “.
The protest leaders fell out last month after Mr Bryson (22) announced that the forum was abandoning the tactic of blocking public roads in favour of white-line pickets. Mr Frazer branded the policy shift a ” mistake ” and questioned whether the forum had approved the move. The statement issued by the forum on Wednesday followed a meeting of the group that evening. ” Unfortunately recent statements made by Willie Frazer in the media are contrary to some of the views, plans and agreed polices of the Ulster People’s Forum,” it said. ” We have invited Willie Frazer to various meetings to discuss and resolve these issues. Unfortunately he has chosen not to accept these invitations. ” The Ulster People’s Forum no longer validates Willie Frazer as a spokesperson and the committee stands over the statement made by Ulster People’s Forum on January 30. ” The committee wish to make clear that Jamie Bryson is the only officially elected spokesperson of the Ulster People’s Forum and has their full support.” However, after yesterday’s meeting Mr Frazer said : ” The aims and objectives of the organisation have not changed and the whole thing is moving in the same direction as it started out in. ” It was admitted that communications were a problem and in future nothing will be done until it is run past the full committee and myself. ” The whole thing about white-line pickets and roadblocks is that it’s down to the people in their own areas what they do.” Mr Frazer (52), formerly head of south Armagh victims group Fair, said the flag issue must be resolved. ” It’s going on now for 10 weeks and we need to get this sorted out before the marching season because we don’t know where it will end up,” he said.
Gordon Dunne Supports “Giving Voice” Event (Photo credit: DUP Photos)
A DUP assembly member has been lambasted over claims that the media ” exploited ” and ” overplayed ” the impact of the loyalist flags protests. North Down MLA Gordon Dunne said that coverage of two months of protests and violence – which has cost the economy an estimated £20 million and left about 100 police officers injured – had been badly handled by the press.
He was speaking after the Stormont enterprise committee heard about the devastating impact on trade in Belfast city centre. ” There is no doubt the media have overplayed the whole thing in relation to protests and that in itself has been detrimental in terms of bringing people into Belfast,” he told the committee. He added : ” The images of Northern Ireland in the last two months have been very negative. ” They’ve been wrong and the media certainly exploited it and they have used it and abused it.” Mr Dunne sits on the same council as Michael and Christine Bower, the two Alliance councillors whose Bangor home was targeted on December 6 by loyalists after Belfast City Council voted to restrict flying the Union Flag.
His comments were criticised last night by Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle who described them as ” ill-judged and wide of the mark “. ” It is solely the responsibility of the protesters and those behind the violence,” he said.
FLAGS protest organiser Jamie Bryson was a mascot at a Northern Ireland football match just weeks before he emerged as a loyalist leader The Ulster People’s Forum chairman was ‘ Footie ‘ the mascot for the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan in November. Mr Bryson paraded round Windsor Park wearing a huge football shaped head and oversized boots as he high-fived players and waved to fans. The mascot is often used by the Irish Football Association (IFA) for public relations events including helping to promote its cross-community Football for All campaign. However, the IFA yesterday dismissed any connection between Mr Bryson and its cross-community work. A spokesman said : ” The regular mascot was unavailable for the game and his replacement took unwell on the afternoon of the game and Mr Bryson stood in at the last minute. ” This was a one-off. ” Mr Bryson is not involved in, or has ever been involved in any of the association’s community relations projects.”
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Mr Bryson once told a court he could not plea to a charge of possessing a weapon because he was ‘ innocent under God’s law ‘. He was convicted 12 months ago of being in possession of an extendible bat which he claimed was for protection from drug dealers and criminal gangs. He received a four month suspended sentence after delivering a letter to the judge saying he could not enter a plea because he believed he had the right under God’s law to defend himself if attacked and would not have hesitated in using the weapon.
The former north Down community worker said that although he believed he was innocent in God‘s eyes he understood that the judiciary would have a different opinion. Police found the flick baton in Mr Bryson’s car when they stopped him in Groomsport, Co Down, in October 2011.