THE Public Prosecution Service has dramatically dropped incitement charges it had levelled at Union flag cheerleader Jamie Bryson.
However, the 23-year-old is still facing four other public order offences, including obstructing traffic and taking part in illegal processions in east Belfast.
Now Bryson, of Rosepark, Donaghadee, wants a ban on him making public speeches and addressing he media to be lifted.
The two most serious charges against him involved claims that he encouraged or assisted offences by addressing public gatherings.
Those alleged offences, under the Serious Crime Act, would have been dealt with in the Crown Court where heavier sentences could be imposed on conviction.
The legislation had been brought in primarily to deal with Al Qaeda terrorists in the UK.
As a result of the PPS dropping the incitement charges which would have been held at Belfast Crown Court, he will now face a magistrates court hearing where the sentences are less punitive.
Mr Bryson, who is still accused of taking part in unlawful processions and obstructing traffic, now wants a ban on making public speeches lifted.
On Friday, he entered not guilty pleas to the four remaining charges and a date will be fixed for a contest hearing.
His barrister Richard McConkey sought to vary a bail condition that prevents Mr Bryson from talking to the media or making public speeches.
He argued the withdrawal of the incitement charges meant the ban was unnecessary.
District judge Fiona Bagnall adjourned the application for police to make any representations next week.
Bryson was arrested in March this year while on the run from detectives from the PSNI’s ‘Operation Dulcet’ team which has been investigating ongoing Union flag protests and resulting public disorder since last December.
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.
Following his appearance at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, he was remanded in custody.
He later appeared by video-link from Maghaberry Prison with the High Court in Belfast to apply for bail.
A prosecution lawyer told the hearing 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, 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 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 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.
However, the following month, Bryson was granted bail under strict conditions.