Belfast Telegraph

Suspended jail sentence for 'under-threat' Union flag protester

By Alan Erwin

High-profile Union flag protester Jim Dowson has been handed a three-month suspended prison sentence for taking part in unlawful public processions.

A judge in Belfast ruled out an alternative of imposing community service after hearing the 50-year-old is under threat from two different sources.

Dowson, originally from Scotland but now living in Comber, Co Down, pleaded guilty to three counts of participating in un-notified public processions.

The offences, during January and February 2013, occurred during demonstrations at the decision to limit the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall.

Prosecutors said anyone involved in the marches broke the law because prior notice required under legislation was not given to police and the Parades Commission.

Demonstrators coming in from the east of the city passed sensitive interface locations, with disorder breaking out on some occasions.

Although it was not suggested that Dowson was involved in any trouble, Belfast Magistrates' Court heard he was captured on video footage taking part in three of the processions.

John O'Neill, prosecuting, said Dowson at first denied any wrongdoing.

"He accepted being present but disputed that they constituted a procession," the lawyer told the court.

"He said he was an Orangeman but denied knowing any notification document had to go to the Parades Commission."

At one stage, District Judge Fiona Bagnall questioned Dowson's suitability for community service.

She rejected that option after hearing how the apparent threats against him could lead to others being put at risk.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph