The UK’s highest court will sit in Northern Ireland for the first time next April for up to four days of hearings. The Supreme Court will sit in the Inns of Court Library at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast which will allow one hundred members of the public to watch in person. This is only the second time that the court has sat outside of Westminster. An Edinburgh session was held earlier this year in June.
Five of the 12 judges will travel to Belfast at the end of April. They will hear evidence in the final appeal in the ‘gay cake’ case. The appeal is challenging a ruling against Ashers Bakery who refused to make a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage” because of religious beliefs. The bakery was judged to have discriminated against a customer on grounds of sexual orientation.
The judges will also hear a case on allowances for widowed parents and whether this breaches human rights laws.
Among the judges who will travel to Belfast is the president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, who said: “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”.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, the most senior judge in Northern Ireland agreed with this sentiment, saying that: “I regard it as extremely significant that the court is now sitting outside London, and I am pleased that Belfast has been chosen as one of the earliest locations to feature on the court’s calendar.” He continued on to say: “I believe it is important for people in this jurisdiction to have the opportunity to see the work of the court as first hand, which can only help to enhance public confidence in the administration of justice”.
This will also be the first time that court proceedings will be streamed in Northern Ireland. Lady Hale said that: “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 live streamed for everyone who cannot get to see us in person”.
Lord Kerr, former lord chief justice of Northern Ireland will also be attending. They will be joined by Lord Mance, lord Hodge, and Lady Black.