Supreme Court to sit in NI for Ashers bakery '˜gay cake' case

The Ashers bakery '˜gay cake' case will heard by the UK's highest court when it sits in Northern Ireland for the first time next April.

Monday, 27th November 2017, 6:30 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 12:49 pm
Daniel McArthur of Ashers and his wife Amy arrive at the High Court in Belfast for their Court of Appeal hearing. Picture: Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Up to four days of Supreme Court hearings will take place at the Royal Court of Justice in Belfast.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale will be joined by deputy president Lord Mance, Lord Kerr – the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland – Lord Hodge and Lady Black when proceedings begin on Monday, April 30, 2018.

In the case of Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd, the justices will hear arguments on whether the bakery directly discriminated against a customer on the grounds of sexual orientation by not fulfilling an order for a cake with ‘Support Gay Marriage’ written on it. The McArthur family turned down the order because it conflicted with their Christian belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.

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In October 2016, Ashers’ owners lost their case in the Court of Appeal. The court rejected the firm’s appeal against a previous court ruling – in May 2015 – which said that the business had broken sexual orientation and political discrimination laws.

Announcing the court’s visit to Belfast, Lady Hale said: “As the final court of appeal for the United Kingdom, we hear cases of profound importance to everyone in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. My colleagues and I strongly believe that the experience of watching a case in person should not be limited to those within easy reach of London. This is the second time that the court has sat outside London”.

The court will also consider whether a policy on allowances for widowed parents breaches human rights laws. Up to 100 members of the public can be facilitated in court to watch the proceedings.

Lady Hale added: “Whilst in Belfast we shall hear two significant appeals from the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. This will be a fantastic opportunity for local people to see the court in action on their doorstep.

“The Supreme Court is committed to being one of the most open and accessible in the world and, like all our hearings, our Belfast cases will be live streamed via our website for everyone who cannot get to see us in person.”

The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, said: “I am very much looking forward to welcoming the Supreme Court to Belfast in April. I regard it as extremely significant that the court is now sitting outside London and I am pleased that Belfast has been chosen as one of the earliest locations to feature in the court’s calendar.

“I believe it is important for people in this jurisdiction to have the opportunity to see the work of the court at first hand, which can only help to enhance public confidence in the administration of justice.”