PSNI 'struck deal to allow flag protest'

PSNI 'struck deal to allow flag protest'

Police allegedly struck a deal with loyalist community representatives to allow a Union flag demonstration parade to take place in Belfast in return for guarantees there would be no violence, a court has heard.

Lawyers for Willie Frazer, who said the loyalist campaigner heard about the discussions "on the grapevine", are seeking full disclosure of any documentation from two meetings said to have taken place in the days leading up to the demonstration.They also want to know the identities of those who were in attendance.A judge was told, however, that no notes or records were kept.Names have so far also been held back due to data protection issues.Mr Frazer, 53, from Markethill, Co Armagh, is currently facing charges linked to the flag dispute in Belfast.They include encouraging or assisting offences by making a speech outside Belfast City Hall and taking part in an un-notified public procession on 19 January last year.As part of his defence to the charges his legal team have mounted an application to be given all material from the meetings held earlier that week.Defence barrister Richard Smyth told Belfast Magistrates' Court, Mr Frazer "heard on the grapevine" that senior police met with community representatives ahead of the 19 January procession."In a nutshell, (he heard) that police had reached an agreement with loyalist representatives in east Belfast to allow the parade to take place," Mr Smyth said."The quid pro quo was that those on the ground would then ensure no violence."An Irish News article at the time, reporting that loyalists would be on the streets to bring trouble to an end, strengthened this belief, according to the defence.Mr Smyth claimed no satisfactory answers have been given to the disclosure requests."At the end of the day the defence is not being treated fairly in this case," he said."It seems there was a meeting at a senior level with the powers that be, or community leaders for want of a better word, where an agreement was discussed in relation to this march and that was never passed down to the foot soldiers."They are now trying to prosecute this particular defendant who was involved on the day, without telling him about this going on in the background."Questioned by District Judge Fiona Bagnall, a prosecution lawyer confirmed the information from police was that no notes, emails or memos were taken following the meetings.Mrs Bagnall pointed out that any alleged inconsistencies in the police statements can be dealt with at trial.Stressing that a reasonable explanation could still be provided, she adjourned the disclosure application for two weeks to allow the prosecution to make further inquiries.Protests took place in the city and across Northern Ireland after Belfast council voted to fly the Union flag at city hall on designated days.CHAR(13) + CHAR(10)

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