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NI Attorney-General cannot refer Ashers case to the Supreme Court

Gareth Lee v Colin McArthur, Karen McArthur and Ashers Baking Company Ltd [2016] NICA 55

In our October Update, we reported that on 24th October 2016, the Court of Appeal found that Ashers Baking Company had directly discriminated against the respondent on grounds of sexual orientation, and religious and political belief, by refusing to fulfil his order for a cake in support of marriage equality.

The Ashers Baking Company was refused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court and the Attorney-General then sought to refer the case to the UK Supreme Court.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Northern Ireland’s Attorney-General could not refer the Ashers case to the UK Supreme Court.  The Attorney wanted to ask the Supreme Court to rule on devolution issues but his request had come too late.  The Attorney-General had no power to require the court to refer under para 33 of Schedule 10 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, because on the relevant date there were no longer proceedings before it.

The court held that the power to require the court to refer is designed to enable the Attorney-General to refer proceedings he is involved in prior to judgment.  This means that the Court of Appeal can determine the case with the benefit of the opinion of the Supreme Court.  Once judgment is given the Attorney has the same appeal rights of any other litigant.  There were no exceptional circumstances to justify the reopening of the case.

The Ashers Baking Company had previously been refused leave, but the McArthur family who own the bakery, are petitioning for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Read Belfast Telegraph article here.

Discrimination, LGBT