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Questions over decision to prosecute 'Satanic Islam' sermon pastor James McConnell

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 20/06/2015

Pastor James McConnell
Pastor James McConnell

There are a number of worrying aspects about the case of Pastor James McConnell, who is facing prosecution for remarks he made last year claiming that the Islamic faith is "satanic".

The Pastor later apologised to the Muslim community, but he has declined to accept an "informed warning" from the PPS, and is prepared to face court proceedings.

The grounds for his prosecution are extremely odd, and he is being charged under the 2003 Communications Act with "sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive".

This course of action is in stark contrast to the case of a member of the Druids folk group who uttered what many people considered to be a most offensive republican message at the Ardoyne Fleadh last year.

Now the MLA William Humphreys is rightly asking what is the distinguishing factor, which meant that the Druids' performer was not prosecuted, but the ailing and elderly Pastor McConnell has been charged for his remarks.

Mr Humphrey has pointed out that the PPS and the PSNI did not prosecute in the Druids case because the outburst was uttered to a nationalist audience.

But a PPS spokesperson in a convoluted and virtually inexplicable comment has claimed that there was no evidence available to bring a charge, similar to that facing Pastor McConnell, in the Druids case.

Most people will find this explanation nonsensical, and Mr Humphrey has rightly claimed that this "differential behaviour" by the PSNI and the PPS is contributing to distrust in, and disengagement from, the policing and legal processes. The law must be seen to be applied even-handedly, and many people will feel that his is not happening in Pastor McConnell's case.

The DPP Barra McGrory clearly values the integrity of his office, as he must surely do, and he must make every attempt to ensure that his decision-making is transparent. This is something that sadly appears to be lacking in the Pastor McConnell case.

Belfast Telegraph

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