Belfast Telegraph

Jame Bryson to challenge police searches

Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson is challenging the legality of search warrants
Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson is challenging the legality of search warrants

By Paul Higgins

Lawyers for loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson are set to appear at the High Court to challenge the legality of search warrants issued against him, a court has heard.

While Mr Bryson represented himself at Newtownards Magistrates Court yesterday, he told the court he had instructed McConnell Kelly solicitors and Barry McDonald QC to fight the judicial review on his behalf.

The application for a judicial review is to be heard by Mr Justice McCloskey at the High Court today, Mr Bryson said.

By challenging the legality of the search warrants and seizure of material, he is seeking the return of property police seized from him during an investigation into the alleged illegal supply of door staff.

Last August, the prominent loyalist was arrested by police under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 as they investigated alleged criminality linked to the UVF in east Belfast.

Working alongside the Security Industry Authority (SIA), officers conducted searches at two residential addresses in Bangor and Donaghadee, as well as premises in Newtownards where they seized a number of items, including a BB gun, laptops, an iPad, documents and camouflage clothing.

Although arrested, Mr Bryson was freed without charge and posted an online video lambasting his arrest as "absurd".

At Newtownards Magistrates Court yesterday, a lawyer for the SIA agreed there were two strands to Mr Bryson's arguments - challenging the legality of the warrants and seeking the return of material "he says are subject to legal and professional privilege and journalistic privilege".

She submitted the challenge to the warrants should be dealt with by the High Court. In relation to the materials Mr Bryson is seeking returned, she said "it's our submission that Mr Bryson is in fact taking the wrong application, he should in fact make the application to the County Court under the Police And Criminal Evidence Act for the return of the items".

Mr Bryson submitted that this stance was a "double edged sword" for the SIA because as it now said that he should go to the County Court, "they are now admitting that they should have gone to the County Court [to get the warrants] in the first instance".

"They are essentially making clear that the original warrants are not valid," declared the loyalist blogger.

"They're coming here and saying that I should go to the County Court so they are now accepting that this is journalistic material, so if they are accepting that, then I would assume that they have to accept that before Mr Justice McCloskey, so I don't see any reason why the legality of the warrants could stand," argued Mr Bryson, submitting "the warrants should be quashed".

District Judge Peter King said the judicial review should be dealt with first. He told Mr Bryson that while he was adjourning the case to January 9 next year, "I want to keep this application alive."

Belfast Telegraph

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