Belfast Telegraph

UK Supreme Court will sit in Belfast for first time - possibly for Asher's case

By Michael Sheils McNamee

The Supreme Court of the UK is set to sit in Belfast for the first time, with the possibility that it will consider the judgement in the pro-gay marriage cake case.

This comes after comments made by UK Supreme Court Justice Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore at the inaugural Belfast Pride Law Lecture held at Queen's University and organised by Lawyers with Pride.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, one of the group's founders Steven McQuitty said that Lord Kerr confirmed the sitting would take place, and that the Court would hear the Asher's Bakery case.

"It was a massive coup to get Lord Kerr, and we were so privileged to be able to get him, particularly over the summer. This was the inaugural law lecture. To get the Northern Irish Supreme Court Justice to come it was just fantastic.

"We don’t know where to go next year, who do we get? He spoke so well, did a really good summary of developments in this area - gave a lot food for thought and a little bit of humour as well," Mr McQuitty said.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, a spokesperson for the UK Supreme Court said:

"Following our successful visit to Edinburgh, we can confirm that planning is underway for the UK Supreme Court to sit in Belfast next year so that more people can see the Court in action without needing to travel to London.

"The details of the sitting dates and the cases that will be heard are currently being confirmed and more details will be provided in due course."

It is understood that the sitting will take place next spring.

The UK's highest court is set to consider a judgement against Christian-owned Asher's Bakery, after it was found to be in breach of equality laws by refusing to make a pro-gay marriage cake.

A date for a two-day hearing for legal arguments is listed for October.

The Supreme Court in the UK is a relatively recent innovation, having come into being in 2009.

Established as part of the measures included in the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005, it has taken over the judicial functions previously held by 'Law Lords', who sat in the House of Lords. 

Lord Chief Justice Kerr is originally from County Armagh and studied at Queen's University before being called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1970.

He has enjoyed a distinguished legal career, and between 2004 and 2009 served as Northern Ireland's last Law Lord, being the last person appointed to such a position before the creation of the Supreme Court.

In its first venture away from its London home, last month the Court held a sitting in Edinburgh.

Speaking prior to the visit, President of the Supreme Court Lord Neuberger said: "We make every effort to ensure our proceedings are accessible throughout the UK via our free live streaming service.

"However, nothing beats being able to observe courts at first hand. We look forward to welcoming members of the public as well as lawyers during what is intended to be the first of a number of visits to the capital cities of the devolved nations."

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