Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Law lords to rule on sex shop battle

Belfast council to fight court ruling

Belfast City Council is heading for the House of Lords in London in the last ditch round of a complex legal battle over the licensing of sex establishments.

Belfast City Council is heading for the House of Lords in London in the last ditch round of a complex legal battle over the licensing of sex establishments.

The council is challenging a decision of the Northern Ireland Appeal Court quashing an earlier High Court ruling which upheld the council's refusal to grant a licence to Miss Behavin' Ltd for a sex establishment.

Three law lords, headed by Britain's senior judge and law lord, Lord Bingham, have just given the go-ahead for the council to appeal against the Appeal Court's ruling.

A decision just published says the case will centre on whether the council's decision to refuse Miss Behavin' a licence was unlawful or not.

The legal argument, when the case goes before five law lords later this year, will focus on human rights issues and whether the refusal of a licence infringed the rights of the applicants. No date has yet been fixed for the full hearing before the law lords.

The legal battle over sex shops in the city is one that has been going on for some time.

The shop's owner applied for a licence in May 2002 but it was refused in March 2003 when Belfast City Council announced a total ban on sex shops in the Gresham Street area.

The council also said it was unacceptable that the proposed outlet would be near to churches and family shops. Ulster Unionist city councillor Jim Rodgers said a victory for the shop's owner could "open the floodgates" for the pornography industry in Belfast.

"You can rest assured that if our legal application fails then eventually these places will be in our main shopping areas.

"There's a market for this type of thing but I don't feel we should have it in our city," he said.

"We are succeeding in attracting people and this kind of business only drives people away.

"I fully support this action and I know a lot of people here also support it. It is not good for the image of the city."

SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy has also said that while he is "not opposed to sex shops" he believes care has to be taken about where they are located.

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