Belfast Adult Shop Denied License

Joanne Cachapero
BELFAST, Scotland — After a 4-year long legal battle, the British House of Lords has denied a business license for adult retailer Miss Behavin, located on Gresham St. in the center of Belfast.

The recent decision handed down by the House of Lords will allow the Belfast City Council to proceed against the Miss Behavin shop and six other sex shops located in the area.

The shops may each be liable for more than $40,000 in fines, if found to be operating a business without a license.

Miss Behavin originally applied for a license in 2002, and opened shop at the Gresham St. address.

The legal wrangle began in 2003, when Belfast city councilors decided that the locale was inappropriate for adult retail due to the proximity of family shopping, bus stops and the Belfast Public Library.

At that time, Miss Behavin’s parent company took the case to the Northern Ireland High Court, who ruled in favor of the council.

However, that decision was over turned in Appeals Court a year later, citing that the city council had violated “the human rights of the company by refusing the license to trade.”

This past April, the decision of the Appeals Court was overturned by the House of Lords, and several employees and owners of local Belfast adult stores warned that by making them close the locations, trade in adult products might be driven underground.

One unnamed adult store proprietor said, “I am going to keep on going until they stop me — I've got to feed myself.”

“Belfast (is) not trying to put sex shops out of business,” Head of Building Control for the Belfast City Council Trevor Martin said in April. “All Belfast has said is that, in that area of Gresham St., the number of sex shops will be nil. There is a possibility that, if someone comes up with an application for an area that is not like Gresham Street, that doesn't have the same effect with churches or schools, the council could come to a different determination.”

Of the latest decision ruling in the Council’s favor, Lord Hoffman said, "The right to vend pornography is not the most important right of free expression in a democratic society and the licensing system does not prohibit anyone from exercising it — it only prevents him from using unlicensed premises for that purpose."

Another member of the House of Lords, Baroness Hale said, “"There are far more important human rights in this world than the right to sell pornographic literature and images in the back streets of Belfast city center.”

According to Miss Behavin’s legal council Sean Fox, the company may decide to take the case to the European courts, in order to appeal the decision.