Northern Ireland

Ruth Patterson Facebook prosecution: charge withdrawn

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Media captionRuth Patterson said she was delighted the case had been "put to bed"

A Belfast councillor will not be prosecuted over remarks she made on Facebook about a republican march after the charge against her was withdrawn.

Ruth Patterson from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was charged with sending a grossly offensive electronic communication in August.

She had commented about an imaginary attack in which marchers, including Sinn Féin figures, are killed.

The charge was withdrawn after she was given an informed warning by police.

Mrs Patterson, 57, is an ex-nurse and a former deputy lord mayor of Belfast.

Apologised

She was questioned by police after she responded to another Facebook user's comments about the controversial republican parade in Castlederg, County Tyrone.

In response to the imaginary attack, she wrote on Facebook: "We would have done a great service to Northern Ireland and the world."

Mrs Patterson later apologised for her comments and said she was guilty of "a lapse of judgement".

As she left court in Belfast on Friday she spoke briefly to reporters, saying: "I am delighted and thrilled that this case has now finally been put to bed."

She thanked her legal team and the DUP for "standing by" her during the case.

She added: "But most of all, I thank my loyalist people who stand here today with me, shoulder to shoulder.

"We are unbowed, unbroken and 100% united in loyalty to our Queen and our country.

"Today is the beginning of the rest of my life and I look forward to it."

'Sensational arrest'

Her colleague, DUP MLA Jonathan Bell, said his party had "major concerns" about the attempted prosecution of the councillor.

"Ruth had made an error, she apologised immediately," Mr Bell said outside the court.

"We never saw the need, and don't believe there is justification, for the sensational arrest that she was put through and how she was held for a number of hours.

"In many a reasonable opinion, that has been seen to be wrong."

In a short statement, the police said that decisions on prosecutions were for the Public Prosecution Service.

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