Unionists have queried why provocative comments made by Gerry Adams, The Druids band and the leader of Belfast‘s Muslim community appear to have been dealt with much more leniently than the case of Pastor McConnell.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said recently of unionists that “The point is to actually break these b*****ds” while the Druids said during a concert that it was time British troops and Orangemen “all f****d off back to England”. The leader of Belfast Islamic Centre Dr Raied Al-Wazzan said recently of ISIS in Mosul: “Since the Islamic State took over, it has become the most peaceful city in the world”.
The DUP wrote to the Chief Constable and the Director of Publi+c Prosecutions yesterday asking both to explain their “differential” treatment of James McConnell when compared to the decision on comments made by The Druids. The party said that the police “did not even question the band about the matter”.
TUV leader Jim Allister added: “The treatment of Pastor McConnell stands in sharp contrast with the inaction and failure to prosecute over The Druids’ sectarian and hate-filled outburst at the Ardoyne Fleadh, Gerry Adams’ foul-mouthed outburst against unionists in Enniskillen and the by-ball given to the head if the Belfast Islamic Centre over his inflammatory comments on Islamic State.”
NI Conservatives representative and lawyer Trevor Ringland also expressed concern about the four cases. “Certainly we have to look at everyone who speaks in public that they do not promote hatred, because as a society we know what that has led to in our past,” he said. “We have to maintain a consistent approach to challenging such comments.”
The PSNI responded that they do not comment on individuals. “In any situation where there are grounds to suspect an offence has been committed, PSNI will conduct an investigation and submit a file to the PPS,” it said. “Direction on prosecution is a matter for the PPS.”
It is understood the Public Prosecution Service did not receive any files from the PSNI on Gerry Adams or Dr Al-Wazzan, but a PPS spokeswoman dismissed any Druids-McConnell comparison. Stating that the PPS cannot comment in detail on a live case for legal reasons, she added that the PPS takes all of its prosecutorial decisions “based on the available evidence and independently of any political influence”. She added: “The assumption that these cases are directly comparable is wrong”. The only similarity is that a decision was made in both cases that the test for prosecution for “stirring up hatred or arousing fear” was not met. The PPS believes Pastor McConnell was behind a “grossly offensive” message contrary to the Communications Act, while there was “no evidence” to support such a charge against the Druids, she added.