Northern Ireland

Ruth Patterson Facebook prosecution decision 'next week'

A councillor will learn next week if her prosecution over a post on Facebook is to go ahead, a court has been told.

A decision on whether to proceed with the charge against Ruth Patterson will be confirmed by 20 December.

Crown counsel gave the undertaking as a judge rejected a bid to have the case struck out.

Mrs Patterson, a Democratic Unionist and a former Belfast deputy lord mayor, is accused of sending a grossly offensive electronic communication.

The charge relates to comments linked to another Facebook user's posting about an imaginary attack on a republican parade in Castlederg, County Tyrone.

The 57-year-old former nurse was arrested and charged in August.

At a previous hearing it was confirmed that she will be pleading not guilty.

Mrs Patterson's solicitor applied to have the case thrown out.

He said the Public Prosecution Service was to state its final position by this stage.

"This matter has been going on since August," he said.

"It should have been dealt with by summons, not by charge."

A Public Prosecution Service representative agreed that a decision was to have been made.

"The decision is almost finalised and my application would be for one week," he said.

"There's one further matter to be finalised before the decision can be taken."

The judge rejected the defence request and gave the PPS another seven days.