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DUP’s Ruth Patterson’s Facebook charge dropped

Ruth Patterson

Ruth Patterson

A Belfast councillor accused of an offensive posting on Facebook is no longer to be prosecuted, it was confirmed on Friday.

The charge against Ruth Patterson was withdrawn after a warning was issued to her, a judge was told.

Supporters applauded as the end of criminal proceedings was announced at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

As she left the dock Mrs Patterson was embraced by her Democratic Unionist Party colleague, Assemblyman Jonathan Bell.

Outside the court she said: “I’m absolutely delighted. Justice has been done.”

Mrs Patterson, the former deputy lord mayor of Belfast, had been charged with sending a grossly offensive electronic communication.

It related to comments linked to another Facebook user’s posting about an imaginary attack on a republican parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

The 57-year-old former nurse was arrested and charged in August. She had intended to plead not guilty to the alleged offence.

Last week her lawyer applied to have the case thrown out due to the time being taken by the Public Prosecution Service to come to a decision.

But District Judge Fiona Bagnall gave the PPS another seven days to reach a final position.

In court today a prosecution lawyer said: “An informed warning has been issued. The matter can be withdrawn.”

Judge Bagnall then confirmed proceedings were at an end, prompting the applause from the public gallery.

The DUP branded Ms Patterson’s arrest a “PR stunt”.

In a statement, the DUP said: “Alderman Ruth Patterson’s arrest was sensationalist with officers arriving at her place of work. She was held in custody, had her house raided and had her telephone and computer removed.

“Ultimately, with all charges being withdrawn it is hard not to conclude that Ruth’s arrest and indeed the entire investigation was nothing more than a PR stunt and a waste of resources.”

The party stressed that the councillor’s Facebook comments had been unacceptable.

“Alderman Patterson has apologised for her remarks, accepted they were well below the standard expected of a public representative and not in keeping with the DUP’s values and ethos,” said a DUP spokesman.

 
 
 

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