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Not guilty McConnell weathers the storm; Pastor acquitted of being grossly offensive in 'satanic Islam' church sermon.

Byline: LESLEY-ANNE MCKEOWN

PASTOR James McConnell has been found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he branded Islam ''satanic''.

The born-again Christian from the Shore Road, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, walked free from Belfast Magistrates' Court yesterday where he faced prosecution under the 2003 Communications Act. Delivering his verdict, District Judge Liam McNally said: "The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive.

"Accordingly I find Pastor McConnell not guilty of both charges." The 78-year-old had faced two charges - improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network.

The sermon in which the preacher also called the religion "heathen" was delivered from the pulpit of his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle on May 18, 2014, and was streamed online.

The judge said while the words upon which the charges were based were offensive, they did not reach the high threshold of being "grossly offensive".

A PPS spokesman added: "It is clear from the judgement the court considered Pastor McConnell had a case to answer and the decision on whether the comment was offensive or grossly offensive was not only finely balanced but one for the court and the court alone to take."

irish@mgn.co.uk

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TRIAL Pastor James McConnell

court case McConnell was found not guilty in Belfast yesterday PICTURES: JONATHAN PORTER

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 6, 2016
Words:244
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