A NORTH Belfast man has been convicted of threatening to kill loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.
Following a brief contest at Newtownards Magistrates Court, Brian Smith (30) was also convicted of harassing Mr Bryson and making a threat that he would petrol bomb the homes of the victim's mother and partner, all committed between July 10-23 last year.
Mr Bryson told the court that messages, all sent through Facebook, “caused me serious distress and fear,” adding that given their “deeply threatening characteristics, that put me in fear of my life".
With the messages threatening that Mr Bryson “will be alongside Willie Frazer” who died in June 2019 and making “references to organisations,” the victim told District Judge Mark Hamill “I believe that the defendant meant to carry out the threats".
He also said threats against his family and referencing the areas where he resides only served to increase that fear.
"That puts my child in danger and that is distressing to me and my wider family," said Mr Bryson.
Defence counsel for Smith had earlier entered a guilty plea to the harassment charge and he sought to argue that it was “an umbrella charge” which encompassed all of Smith’s actions.
"There's no dispute the messages were sent and they should never have been sent," conceded the lawyer who suggested that the two counts of making specific threats "can be encompassed on a full facts basis within that charge".
Convicting Smith on all three counts however, Judge Hamill told him: "If I tell you I’m going to kill you but also burn your mother's house and burn your girlfriend's house, it doesn’t come under the one umbrella, it’s three separate offences - that is crystal clear."
Smith, from the Cliftonville Road in north Belfast, was freed on bail pending the completion of a pre-sentence probation report and the judge said he would pass sentence on March 15.
Welcoming what he described as “the robust judicial determination” of Judge Hamill, Mr Bryson declared: “There is clearly a need for a robust deterrent sentence.”
"That Mr Smith purported to be acting on behalf the IRA and also mocked the death of the late victims campaigner and himself a victim of the IRA Mr William Frazer makes this matter even more egregious.
"On this occasion I would praise the work of the PSNI and PPS for their diligence in securing these serious convictions."