Northern Ireland

Ardoyne Fleadh: DPP defends no prosecution over Druid's comments

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Media captionThe Druids appeared on stage during the Ardoyne Fleadh on Sunday 24 August

The director of public prosecutions has defended the decision not to proceed with prosecutions over remarks made by a band at a Belfast music festival.

The DUP and TUV said they reported comments made by the Druids at the Ardoyne Fleadh last month to police.

A video showed a band member saying British soldiers in Ireland "should get together with their Orange comrades" and go back to England.

However, Barra McCrory said it "did not meet the threshold for prosecution".

"What happened here is that the police came to us with the view that this event did not meet the threshold for prosecution and the PPS lawyer who looked at it agreed," he told the BBC.

Image caption DPP Barra McCrory said they stood over their decision in relation to the Druids

"So that's the context in which we became involved. No file was submitted formally and no recommendation was made by the police that there should be a prosecution.

"All cases are taken on their merit, individually, and the relevant offence on this would have been an offence taken under the Public Order Legislation of 1987, of using words or behaviour which intended to stir up hatred.

"The lawyer concerned looked at the case with the police in general context and took the view that the extent of the incident, and the context in which it occurred, did not meet the threshold for prosecution - I think that's a decision we stand over."

The police have said they conducted a "full and thorough investigation".

Following the incident, the County Kildare-based group's singer Mick O'Brien told the Leinster Leader that the remarks "wouldn't be our normal comments as such [during a gig], but again it is taken out of context".

Mr McCrory said he agreed with "anyone who would say that is deeply offensive language to use to a significant section of the population".

However, he said bringing a criminal case would not have been an "appropriate use of the legislation" in the context of these comments made at a concert in Ardoyne.

When asked by the BBC if the law should be changed, Mr McCrory said it was a "matter for our politicians, that's not a matter for me".

"This is another difficulty for the Public Prosecution Service. We take legal decisions, we make judgements on the evidence and, on the law, as best we can in a purely legal context.

"The question of whether or not the law is sufficient in order to curb offensive behaviour of this nature, which it undoubtedly was, is a matter for the elected politicians to determine, not for me."

On Tuesday, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said the decision not to prosecute "beggars belief".

Ulster Unionist Ross Hussey said he was "disgusted" by the PPS decision.

However, the SDLP's Alban Maginness said it was the right decision.

"Yes these remarks were offensive, yes they were sectarian, yes they caused great offence," he said.

"But I don't think it amounted to a hate crime per se."

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