Northern Ireland news

Final appeal in the `gay cake' case will see Supreme Court sit in Northern Ireland for the first time

Ashers bakery refused to make a cake bearing the slogan 'Support gay marriage'

THE final appeal in the `gay cake' case will see the UK's highest court sit in Northern Ireland for the first time next year.

The Inns of Court Library at Belfast's Royal Courts of Justice will host the Supreme Court during four days of hearings, its president Lady Hale has confirmed.

Five of the 11 justices will make the trip, which is only the second time the court has sat outside Westminster.

Lady Hale and her deputy Lord Mance will be joined on April 30 by Lord Hodge and Lady Black, as well as Lord Kerr, Northern Ireland's former Lord Chief Justice.

"I am delighted that the Supreme Court will be sitting in Belfast in 2018, " Lady Hale said.

"As the final court of appeal for the United Kingdom, we hear cases of profound importance to everyone in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

"Whilst in Belfast we shall hear two significant appeals from the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland. My colleagues and I strongly believe that the experience of watching a case in person should not be limited to those within easy reach of London."

The 'gay cake' case centres on a cake gay rights activist Gareth Lee tried to buy from the bakery Ashers, which initially accepted his order featuring the slogan `Support gay marriage', before the owners decided making it would run counter to their Christian beliefs, refunding the money.

The bakery's name derives from the Bible in which Asher was a tribe of Israel which had many skilled bakers.

Mr Lee claimed the refusal was discriminatory and unlawful and won a May 2015 case and an October 2016 appeal by Ashers.

The case is of massive public interest and the Belfast venue will hold 100 members of the public - around 30 more than London Courtroom One's capacity.

However, Lady Hale also confirmed that, as with all Supreme Court hearings, it will be streamed online.

"This will be a fantastic opportunity for local people to see the court in action on their doorstep," she said.

"The Supreme Court is committed to being one of the most open and accessible in the world and, like all our hearings, our Belfast cases will be livestreamed via our website for everyone who cannot get to see us in person."

The Supreme Court will also hear a case on whether a policy on allowances for widowed parents breaches human rights laws.

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