Accused ‘could face reprisals’ over incident at Twaddell protest camp

Posters and flags torn down at Twaddell protest camp. Pic from UPRG Twitter.
Posters and flags torn down at Twaddell protest camp. Pic from UPRG Twitter.

A man accused of tearing down flags and banners at a loyalist protest camp could face a reprisal attack if allowed back into the area, the High Court heard yesterday.

Even though Sean Hyland was previously granted bail he remains in custody amid fears for the safety of both himself and the general public.

His bid to be released has been put on hold because no address can be found outside the Ardoyne area of north Belfast.

Hyland, 21, of Cranbrook Court in the city, was arrested along with another man and woman following an incident at the nearby Twaddell Avenue camp last Tuesday.

Loyalists have been protesting at the site since an Orange Order parade was restricted last July.

The three accused are charged with damaging flags or banners and waving an Irish tricolour at a community flashpoint with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.

Hyland also faces a further count of obstructing police.

His bail was initially opposed on the basis that tensions remain high in the area.

Last week, a district judge ruled that Hyland could be released once another address outside Ardoyne is approved by police.

He was to be subjected to an exclusion zone and prohibited from going within 500 metres of the Twaddell Avenue camp.

Since then, however, no suitable living arrangements have been identified.

Lawyers for Hyland went before the High Court yesterday in a bid to have those conditions varied.

Mr Justice Stephens was told opposition to him returning to the area is based on a fear of reprisals.

Mr Justice Stephens adjourned the application to vary the bail terms. He held that insufficient inquiries had been made about finding another possible address outside Ardoyne.

Defence barrister John O’Connor confirmed the only available address is in Ardyone.

“The reason police are saying it’s not suitable is because it’s too close to the loyalist camp,” he said. “Is the court taking the view that the right to protest, whether or not it’s legal or illegal, overrides this man’s right to liberty?”

The judge pointed out that the issues were to ensure the safety of the public and the accused.