Jamie Bryson criticises PSNI arrest operation
LOYALIST blogger Jamie Bryson has criticised police after he was arrested and questioned by officers investigating criminality linked to the UVF in east Belfast.
The PSNI said officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force supported the Security Industry Authority (SIA) and carried out an arrest and search operation on Thursday as part of an ongoing investigation.
It said a 28-year-old man was arrested under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 on suspicion of unlawfully supplying door staff following searches at two residential addresses in Bangor and Donaghadee.
Office premises were also searched in Newtownards.
Mr Bryson, who has denied any involvement in criminal activity, was taken to Musgrave Street police station in Belfast for questioning and released on Thursday night on police bail pending further enquiries.
Police said several items were seized during the searches including a BB gun, a number of laptops, documents, camouflage clothing and an iPad.
Mr Bryson was a leading figure in the 2012/13 Union flag protests.
The north Down man has since become a prominent loyalist commentator.
After his release he posted a video online revealing details of his arrest.
He also slammed the police operation.
“Today I was arrested by the PSNI in what was one of the most absurd, ridiculous and quiet frankly legally questionable policing operations anybody is likely to come across,” he said.
He accused officers of seizing journalistic notes and “consultation notes” between him and his solicitor and claimed police attempted to stop him from speaking to anyone about his arrest as part of bail conditions, which he refused to accept and says he requested to be brought before a judge.
Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said the “joint search and arrest operation with the SIA ties into an ongoing investigation into criminality linked to the east Belfast UVF”.
“A 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of supplying unlicensed door staff,” he said.
“The PSNI works closely with the SIA on a range of initiatives to ensure the public are kept safe by assuring that security staff are correctly licensed.
“This is important work as the public are exposed to door staff when, at times, they are at their most vulnerable through the consumption of alcohol or drugs.”
Chief Constable George Hamilton later took to Twitter to praise the operation.
“Good work by Paramilitary Crime Task Force in partnership with Security Industry Authority in tackling criminality of east Belfast UVF,” he said.
However, UUP MLA Doug Beattie voiced concerns.
"Many people may have issues with @JamieBrysonCPNI - indeed he and I disagree on many issues,” he tweeted.
“But I have to say this concerns me given @PoliceServiceNI statements and I'd like to know what is going on.”
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said: “We do not comment on named individuals and no inference should be drawn from this.”