Bakery case could cost £30k

David McArthur, General Manager of Ashers Baking Company
David McArthur, General Manager of Ashers Baking Company

The Equality Commission’s case against Ashers Bakery could cost taxpayers more than £30,000, lawyers defending the case have estimated.

The Newtownabbey bakery was threatened with court action by the quango after it refused to decorate a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage”, something the Christian owners said they could not endorse.

Ashers Baking Co, Royal Avenue

Ashers Baking Co, Royal Avenue

The estimate by the lawyers for the Christian Institute, which is supporting Ashers and fundraising for its defence, only covers the cost of a county court case.

If that verdict was to be appealed to higher courts, the costs would skyrocket.

Simon Calvert, the Christian Institute’s deputy director of public affairs, told the News Letter that its lawyers estimate if the case proceeds to court “it could top £30,000” in costs.

Mr Calvert said that the McArthur family, who own the bakery, had met with solicitors in Belfast to discuss their legal response and that would be sent to the commission before its deadline, which is next week.

He said: “It will then be up to the commission to decide if they want to pursue their threatened legal action against Ashers. We hope they will see sense.”

Mr Calvert, whose Newcastle-upon-Tyne organisation has supported Christians who it sees as being persecuted for their beliefs, said that it had seen “huge support for the McArthur family both from people who agree with their Christian values and also from people who don’t share their Christian faith but think that they are doing nothing wrong and should be entitled to their freedom of conscience”.

He added: “I think an awful lot of people recognise that in this case they were being asked to take part in a PR campaign for same-sex marriage and most people think it is unfair that the Equality Commission is trying to use the threat of legal action to compel them to do that”.

The Equality Commission declined to comment.