A DUP member of Belfast City Council has appeared in court to face a charge of sending an electronic message that was grossly offensive.

It relates to a Facebook comment 57-year-old Councillor Ruth Patterson made about an imaginary attack on a republican parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.

Several leading members of the DUP, including former finance minister Sammy Wilson, Health Minister Edwin Poots and Junior Minister Jonathan Bell attended the hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court.

A lawyer for the defendant said Cllr Patterson, a former Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, would be contesting the charge.

As she left the dock, there was cheering from the public gallery and the judge ordered that the court be cleared.

Outside the court area, cameramen and photographers were jostled and umbrellas and hands were pushed in front of camera lenses.

The case is due in court again in eight weeks.