Government officials acted unlawfully when they failed to prosecute an Orange Order lodge for erecting an Orange arch without proper consent in Glengormley, on the northern outskirts of Belfast, in June 2001, according to a Belfast judge.

And the ruling, made by Judge Coghlin last Thursday 19 September, means that the Orange Order will now have to foot a £5 million insurance bill if it wants to erect arches across the North. The Order will also be required to get an engineer’s report to certify that the structure’s are safe.

The arch was erected at Glengormley by the Carnmoney District Orange Lodge on 19 June 2001, three weeks before consent was granted. A local resident, identified as “D”, for his own safety, objected in the High Court.

The resident applied for a judicial review of the decision to allow the arch to be erected without planning permission.

The respondents were the Department of Regional Development, formerly the Department of the Environment and the then RUC.

In a reserved judgment on Thursday, Coghlin said the department gave consent on 10 July, following an application by Carnmoney District LOL.

“I am persuaded that both justice and fairness require me to grant a declaration that the decision by the Department not to prosecute this lodge was unlawful,” he concluded.

Angela Ritchie, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, who represented D, also accused the RUC of “facilitating” the illegal erection of the arch as consent had not been obtained at that time.

However, the judge rejected this and said the action fell within the discretionary range open to “police” in relation to operational matters.

Coughlin went on to say that clarification of the law might be of value in the future – both as a guidance for those charged with the performance of public duties and an assurance for the public that those duties would be carried out in a fair and lawful manner.