Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Ruth Patterson to plead not guilty to Facebook message charge

BY CLAIRE MCNEILLY

RUTH Patterson is planning to plead not guilty to a charge of sending a grossly offensive message on Facebook, the social media website.

The 57-year-old DUP councillor is due to appear in court on August 22 after being questioned and charged by police last Friday.

She caused a furore by responding to a post written by 'Brian Ulsterman' about an imaginary attack on a forthcoming parade in Castlederg in which several people including senior Sinn Fein figures are killed.

The ex-UDR member later apologised for her remarks, saying it was "a lapse of judgment". She then added: "Murder and terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances."

The outspoken politician was not at her Orchard Mews home in south Belfast last night when the Belfast Telegraph called.

When asked if anyone else was being sought in connection with the Facebook conversation last Friday, a police spokeswoman said "inquiries were ongoing". She added social media users should be aware of the implications of posting comments on the internet.

It is understood First Minister Peter Robinson is livid about the decision to charge the former deputy mayor of Belfast and he will be raising the matter with the Chief Constable.

A DUP delegation will meet Matt Baggott to discuss the "perception" issue that unionists are being treated in a different way to nationalists. The party is said to be seething that Ms Patterson was arrested in a "sensationalist" manner, whereas no action has been taken against Gerry Kelly for jumping on to a police Land Rover.

A DUP insider said: "Ruth made a stupid comment and she apologised within an hour. Gerry Kelly is filmed clinging onto a police vehicle in an attempt to stop it and he is treated entirely differently, why is this? That is one of the key issues we will be raising with the Chief Constable."

Ms Patterson was arrested at her cancer charity workplace, while police opted for an interview by appointment with Mr Kelly.

There were words of support for the DUP woman from loyalists at Saturday's Union flag protest outside Belfast City Hall.

A senior DUP figure, however, said: "There are no circumstances which justify her obnoxious and stupid comments and there is a lot of anger in the party."

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