Police fail to gag loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer
Police failed today in a bid to have loyalist campaigner Willie Frazer banned completely from speaking to the press.
A judge refused to impose a blanket prohibition on the 52-year-old giving any media interviews after he was brought back to court for alleged breaches of bail.
Frazer is charged with encouraging offences by an address to union flag demonstrators in January.
He is also accused of three counts of taking part in an unnotified public procession, obstructing traffic in a public place, and possession of a prohibited weapon, namely a Taser stun-gun.
In March he was granted bail on a series of tight conditions.
They included an order not to make any public speeches or social media comments connected to the dispute over restrictions on the union flag being flown at Belfast City Hall.
Police claimed he breached the terms of his release twice last week.
Officers monitoring social media sites discovered he had posted an allegedly flag-related comment on his Facebook page, Belfast Magistrates' Court was told.
A second suspected breach involved quotes from Frazer in a newspaper report about a woman jailed last week for rioting linked to the protests.
Frazer, from Markethill, Co Armagh, was not arrested. He attended court in an arrangement between police and his solicitor.
Although no attempt was made to have him returned to custody, a PSNI officer expressed concerns that any further public comments by him could heighten tensions.
She sought an additional condition that Frazer is not to participate in any media interviews whatsoever.
However, District Judge Fiona Bagnall declined the request, pointing out that it was a big step to stop someone from making any public comment.
She noted the original High Court order was specifically related to flag-related issues.
"I'm reluctant to widen that any further, to say there is a blanket (ban) and he's not entitled to speak to anybody," Judge Bagnall said.
"As far as I'm concerned I'm releasing him again on the same terms as have been previously set.
"If they want to have the terms amended they should go back before the High Court."
Frazer was released to appear again on June 28.
Belfast Telegraph Digital