Belfast Telegraph

Bryson bail conditions 'arbitrary, oppressive and illogical' says solicitor

A Northern Ireland solicitor has said that bail terms issued to loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson were "arbitrary, oppressive and illogical".

Tony Caher was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan show following the arrest of Mr Bryson last week in connection with an investigation into the activity of the east Belfast UVF.

He was arrested last Thursday following Paramilitary Crime Task Force and Security Industry Authority (SIA) searches in Ards and North Down.

Mr Bryson was held on suspicion of unlawfully supplying door staff. He denies any wrongdoing.

Police said Mr Bryson was released on bail pending further investigation. However, Mr Bryson claims he did not agree to the bail conditions imposed on him by police and asked to be brought before a judge.

One of the conditions imposed by police was that Mr Bryson was to have no communication of any type about the case with anyone other than his solicitor.

Mr Bryson has since given interviews about his arrest and posted a video discussing it on YouTube.

While Mr Caher said the term was arbitrary, oppressive and illogical, he said that police were allowed to impose whatever conditions they felt neccesary.

"Police can impose bail conditions but they have to be proportionate, they have to be directed towards the issues of preventing further crime, protecting witnesses and ensuring someone will turn up at court if charged and to allow police to investigate further and make that person turn up at a further police interview," he said.

"The custody sergeant in the police station decides what is reasonable after being briefed by the investigation team."

Mr Caher said that a condition not to tell anyone about the arrest could likely be legally challenged.

"On the face of it that is illogical, unreasonable and probably challengeable. You can see in certain circumstances that such conditions might be reasonable, if there was a widespread inquiry and the police did not want to alert anyone else it may appear reasonable.

"When police broadcast the facts of their investigation to then suggest that someone should not mention it to any other person seems to be illogical and unreasonable."

"Any person would regard it as disproportionate to impose such conditions when the facts of the investigation have been broadcast to the public."

Mr Caher said that colleagues had informed him of similar bail conditions being imposed in the past.

TUV leader and barrister Jim Allister also criticised police's handling of the Bryson case.

"I think the police were foolish to try and implement something which patently was incapable of being implemented and very questionable in the first place," the North Antrim MLA said.

"I think it's a preposterous proposal and the fact that it hasn't been capable of being implemented illustrates just how untenable it is.

"If someone wants to shout from the rooftops that they have been arrested then I think they are entitled to do that."

The TUV leader also criticised Chief Constable George Hamilton for his Tweet praising the "good work" of police on the case.

"It doesn't strike me as right or fair that the Chief Constable should be trumpeting the matter in the manner in which he did," Mr Allister said.

"The process has to be fair, it has to be right and in this case it seems to me that the police have lost the run of themselves.

"This has been lamentably handled and there needs to be lessons learned from this, police have left a lot of questions unanswered which maybe the Ombudsman will answer."

A PSNI spokesperson said people released on bail did not have to give consent to the conditions being imposed.

"Conditional bail allows officers to attach conditions to bail which can protect complainants or witnesses, preserve evidence and mitigate the risk of further offending and there is no requirement in legislation for an individual to consent to these conditions."

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