Hamilton open to bail review, after Bryson saga

Jamie Bryson pictured entering Musgrave PSNI station in Belfast city centre last year. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
Jamie Bryson pictured entering Musgrave PSNI station in Belfast city centre last year. ''Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

Police are open to reviewing bail practices if the need arises following controversy over the arrest of a loyalist, the chief constable has said.

George Hamilton indicated a willingness to reflect on criticism levelled at police after Jamie Bryson claimed officers attempted to gag him from talking about the arrest.

But Mr Hamilton, who said he would review practices if it was necessary, insisted police do have the power to prevent arrested people telling anyone besides their lawyer about the detention.

Mr Bryson emerged from custody without charge claiming that officers imposed bail conditions on him that stopped him communicating to anyone about the arrest, apart from his lawyer.

The 28-year-old from Co Down was detained earlier this month as part of what police described as an ongoing investigation into criminality linked to the east Belfast UVF.

He was questioned on suspicion of unlawfully supplying door staff. He denies any wrong doing.

Openly flouting the apparent restriction on disclosing his arrest, Mr Bryson took to social media, gave media interviews and complained about his detention to the Police Ombudsman.

It is understood the bail conditions were subsequently changed to remove the non-disclosure restriction.

Mr Hamilton was asked about the issue at Policing Board headquarters yesterday. He said he was not aware of the full details of the case, but added: “Clearly I know the individual who has self-disclosed to the public his identity - that’s a matter for him.

“We have never confirmed or released any information in relation to the identity of that individual.

“As regards the bail conditions, that’s all set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Order about what bail conditions and in what circumstances police can set pre-charge bail.

“So we will follow the rule on that. If we need to review our practices around that, we are not arrogant or defensive about it — we’ll do that.

“But I’m not going to get into a specific case that may well be before the courts in the near future.”

Asked a more general question on whether he believed the legislation gave officers the ability to impose such restriction on communication, Mr Hamilton responded:

“Yes we do.”