Jim Dowson arrested and charged over Union Flag protests

Jim Dowson (left) with former ally Nick Griffin. Mr Dowson has latterly been employed by the English Democrats.

Former BNP fundraiser Jim Dowson, who has been a prominent activist in the protests against the disgraceful decision by Belfast City Council to stop flying the Union flag, was arrested on Friday afternoon in east Belfast and detained for questioning.  He appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday morning, where he was charged with “encouraging or assisting offenders” and with five counts of “taking part in an unnotified public procession”.  Having been detained overnight, Mr Dowson was released under strict bail conditions.

Earlier this week two other leading flag protestors were arrested – Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson.  Mr Frazer, whose own father was shot dead by the Provisional IRA in 1975, is the founder and former director of the pressure group Families Acting for Innocent Relatives.

Late on Friday evening Mr Bryson – who is currently on hunger strike in protest at his detention – was charged with encouraging or assisting offences under section 46 of the Serious Crime Act 2007, as well as taking part in unauthorised flag protests.  He appeared in Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday morning.  Bail was refused and Mr Bryson was remanded in custody.

One extraordinary aspect of the case to emerge so far is that the Northern Ireland Police – while admitting that the flag protests themselves were legal and peaceful – maintain that those walking to these protests were taking part in an illegal march, hence the reference to “unnotified parades”.  Defence lawyers ask the interesting question: “If someone is going to a lawful protest how do they get there?”

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