ULSTER People’s Forum spokesman Jamie Bryson was refused bail on Friday as a court heard he was found hiding in a pastor’s loft by police.
And during the 23-year-old’s bail application a High Court judge said said “ill-informed debate” about bail decisions could undermine the rule of law.
Co-accused Willie Frazer was granted temporary release to attend a hospital appointment on Friday for cancer treatment and is banned from talking to the media, using social media and is not allowed into Belfast.
Mr Bryson denies six charges related to the ongoing union flag protests and has been in custody since Saturday, March 2.
He had been on the run from detectives from the PSNI’s ‘Operation Dulcet’ team which has been investigating ongoing Union flag protests and resulting public disorder.
And while police searched numerous addresses and offices in Bangor and Donaghadee looking for him, Bryson posted a video on YouTube accusing the PSNI of “political policing”
He ended the video by stating: “No Surrender!”
However, following a two day man hunt, police eventually found him hiding in the attic of a pastor’s home in Bangor, Down.
As he appeared by video-link from Maghaberry Prison, a prosecution lawyer told the High Court that a decision was taken to detain him after police studied video footage of him addressing crowds of demonstrators and allegedly encouraging them to offend.
A search operation at his home proved unsuccessful, and he also escaped police after being spotted in Kilcooley, Bangor last week, it was claimed.
“When they did attempt to apprehend the applicant at the home of an associate, the associate attempted to prevent police from gaining entry into the house where they found Mr Bryson in the converted roof-space bedroom,” the lawyer said.
The judge was told how the accused posted comments on social media sites as the PSNI hunted for him.
“He said the police weren’t very good at their job because they haven’t arrested him,” the barrister said.
At one stage in his posting Bryson claimed Chief Constable Matt Baggott needed to use better tracking devices in a bid to locate him.
The barrister added: “He indicated he might hand himself in if he could walk. He said his legs are sore.”
She claimed if released Bryson would re-offend and encourage others to do so through his speeches.
Setting out the estimated £20 million cost of policing the flag protests over the last three months, she added that the demonstrations have resulted in serious public disorder, injuries to police and significant losses suffered by the business community.
Defence counsel Richard McConkey argued that his client can be seen in the footage liaising with police to ensure no trouble breaks out at protests.
“At all times Mr Bryson has been encouraging peaceful protests,” he said. “There is absolutely no suggestion at all that this man has been asking people to behave in an unlawful manner.”
Mr McConkey contended there was confusion over police now declaring that unnotified processions to City Hall were illegal.
However, Mr Justice McCloskey refused bail after backing prosecution submissions that the accused may re-offend or incite others to do so.
“The applicant, who has openly evaded and obstructed the police previously, thereby showing no regard at all for the criminal justice system, may by virtue of that conduct repeat his previous behaviour of this kind,” he said.
Mr Justice McCloskey told the High Court on Friday that ill-informed debate about bail decisions could undermine the independence of the courts and undermine the rule of law.
The judge made his comments after days of controversy over perceived treatment of loyalists by police and courts.
First Minister, Peter Robinson, said there was a belief courts were treating the two sides differently with leading republicans getting bail in contrast to loyalists.
Mr Justice McCloskey said where there was ill-informed debate involving comparisons between individual cases, it simply engendered confusion and misunderstanding.
He added this could have other serious consequences and could jeopardise the balance between judiciary and government.
Bryson, from Rosepark, Donaghadee, Co Down, first appeared in the dock of Belfast Magistrates Court last Saturday
He was accused of two counts of encouraging or assisting offences and four counts of taking part in an unnotified public procession.
During the magistrates court hearing, Bryson was remanded into custody to reappear via videolink later this month.
District Judge Bernadatte Kelly told Bryson that she shared police concerns that if released he would pose a “flight risk”.
This was after she was told how he refused to hand himself over to officers knowing they were looking for him.
At the same hearing, former British National Party (BNP) fundraiser, Jim Dowson, also appeared in Belfast Magistrates Court.
The Scottish-born 48-year-old, from Burn Road in Comber, Co Down wass charged with one count of encouraging or assisting offences and five counts of taking part in an unnotified procession.
He was released on bail on condition he surrender all communication devices, including SIM cards and USB fobs.
Judge Kelly said Dowson was not to use a telephone except in an emergency situation, added that if anyone communicated on his behalf, Dowson would be remanded into jail.
He has also been banned from entering Belfast or attending any procession.