ULSTER People’s Forum spokesman Jamie Bryson tasted his first night of freedom on Wednesday after he was freed from prison.
He was granted bail on Wedneday afternoon – but he has been ordered to stay in doors by 8pm or face going back to jail.
His release from Maghaberry prison was allowed only under strict conditions set by a district judge at Belfast Magistrates Court.
* is banned from making public speeches;
* must stay four miles away from Belfast City Hall;
* must not come within one mile of flag protests;
* is banned from making speeches on social media online flag post sites;
* must not give media interviews on flag protests;
* must not wear clothing that would conceal his identity;
* must report daily to Newtownards PSNI station;
* banned from using mobile phones and can only use a landline telephone to contact his solicitor;
* must live at his family in Rosepark, Donaghadee, Co Down;
* must observe an eleven hour curfew from 8pm each night.
His solicitor said police were no longer objecting to Bryson’s release on bail.
Bryson was granted bail of £500 and his mother Louise who was in court agreed to stand surety for him in a similar amount.
Earlier this month, he was refused bail after a court heard he was found hiding in a pastor’s loft by police.
And during that failed bail application a High Court judge said said “ill-informed debate” about bail decisions could undermine the rule of law.
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 earlier this month, 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 on Saturday, March 2.
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.