PPS: 'I am right to prosecute McConnell'

Pastor James McConnell
Pastor James McConnell Pastor James McConnell

Head of the PPS Barra McGrory has said he has been "annoyed" by the criticism of his decision to prosecute Pastor James McConnell.

The 78-year-old preacher refused a caution and said he was willing to go to jail for his beliefs after saying Islam was "satanic."

This came after a decision not to prosecute republican rebel band The Druids for making sectarian remarks during last year's Ardoyne fleadh when they said British soldiers should "get together with their Orange comrades and go back to England".

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said the decision not to prosecute The Druids "beggars belief". However, the head of the PPS said the decision was entirely consistent.

"The communications act is very different to the incitement to hatred act under which Pastor McConnell was considered and was considered in the case of The Druids," said Mr McGrory.

"There was insufficient evidence in both cases, people are accusing us of being inconsistent but in fact we are being consistent under that incitement to hatred legislation the decision was taken not to prosecute Pastor McConnell or The Druids", he said.

However, under the communications act Pastor McConnell did meet the test for prosecution and that was to be dealt with by caution which the preacher turned down."

Mr McGrory said his office is being asked to consider a growing number of cases involving the misuse of the internet to cause offence.

"Justice would have been met by an informed warning which is the lowest conceivable form of diversionary non court disposal that exists and he chose, as is his right, to turn that down and so it has to go to court.

"I get a little bit annoyed when I read the press coverage about this case and that we're torturing this unfortunate 78 year old clergyman when in fact we took a very measured approach to it and it's not really comparable to The Druids.

"Beyond that I can't really go it's there, we'll let the court decide", he added.