After a ten month wait, Northern Ireland MP Iris Robinson has heard that she will not be prosecuted for discussing her Christian beliefs about homosexuality on a radio show.
Homosexual lobby groups, including the police’s own independent advisors on homosexual issues, have reacted angrily to the decision.
However, her party, the DUP, has questioned the use of police time to investigate a “politically-motivated complaint” and said Mrs Robinson was entitled to express her personal views.
Mrs Robinson was accused of inciting homophobic hatred – an offence carrying a prison sentence – after being interviewed by Steve Nolan on his BBC Radio Ulster show last summer.
Mrs Robinson used the biblical word ‘abomination’ to describe homosexuality and suggested that counselling could help those struggling with same-sex attraction.
She also condemned violence against the homosexual community, stating that Christians should “love the sinner and hate the sin”.
A similar incitement law was passed in England and Wales last year. It contains specific wording to protect freedom of speech, but the Government is currently seeking to remove this.
Campaigners say the free speech protection is important to prevent the law from having a chilling effect, where people avoid speaking openly about their beliefs on homosexuality for fear of vexatious complaints.
The Rainbow Project, one of the homosexual groups which complained about Mrs Robinson’s comments, called the outcome a “miscarriage of justice”.
John O’Doherty, the group’s Equality Officer, said: “For 10 months, we were promised a quick response, but the reality has been something completely different.
“These facts raise some serious concerns which the PSNI and the PPS must respond to, to ensure confidence within our community in relation to policing and justice.”
Colin Flinn, who chairs the independent advisory group to the police for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, said: “There is a fine balance between freedom of speech, expressions of faith and the human right to be oneself and to live within a society free from discrimination and fear, whatever one’s sexuality orientation.”
However, a spokesman for the DUP said the “orchestrated vilification” of Mrs Robinson had failed.
“It is a shame that those behind it cannot accept the decision of the PSNI and the PPS. Iris Robinson did nothing wrong,” he said.
“She was asked to express a personal view and that is exactly what she did. Ulster people who believe in the fundamental right to freedom of speech accept this.”