Antrim man disputes bonfire hate charges

Antrim Court House. INAT51-435AC

Antrim Court House. INAT51-435AC

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An Antrim man accused of inciting hatred by placing offensive material on a huge bonfire “utterly disputes” it was him who put it there, his lawyer has declared.

Antrim Magistrates’ Court heard that having been considered by the director of the PPS, 19-year-old Colin White from Farmhill in the town, is to be prosecuted for displaying written material knowing or believing that “hatred was likely to be stirred up or fear was likely to be aroused” on July 11 last year.

In what is believed to be a landmark prosecution in the first case of its kind, the charges relate to writing at the massive pyre in the loyalist Ballycraigy estate.

It has yet to be disclosed exactly what material the charge relates to, but it has been reported there were sectarian displays, an effigy of Gerry Adams, a rainbow flag representing the gay community, and numerous tricolours placed at the bonfire.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson said photographs had been disclosed to the defence depicting a person placing the allegedly offensive materials but that White “disputes utterly the evidence that he was the individual”.

He said given that stance the contest, a date for which will be set in two weeks, is akin to an “identity case”.

The landmark case comes just a few months after the PSNI said prosecutions over election posters and effigies on bonfires were unlikely because the evidence had been burned.

Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin had said in the wake of Twelfth bonfires in July that some of the material was “clearly distasteful and offensive”.

But he added: “These items were destroyed on the bonfires and it is unlikely there will be any evidential material to progress.”