A 79-year-old British bishop has failed in an attempt to challenge a German court conviction over remarks he made in a Swedish television programme. The European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that an application by Richard Williamson to overturn a conviction for incitement to hatred was inadmissible. 

Williamson, a traditionalist Catholic and a former member of the breakaway fraternity Society of Saint Pius X, had been convicted by Regensburg District Court in 2012 for stating in a TV interview that he believed there were no gas chambers under the Nazi regime. He was fined €6,500, reduced to €1,800 on appeal.

Williamson was and is a UK resident and although the interview took place in Germany his comments were broadcast on Swedish television. The German court ruled that, in giving the interview, Williamson accepted that it might be viewed in Germany via the web and attract interest around the world. 

On appeal to Strasbourg, Williamson argued that the conviction contravened Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of expression) and that the offence was not committed in Germany’s jurisdiction. However a chamber of seven judges concluded that Williamson ’had sought to use his right to freedom of expression with the aim of promoting ideas contrary to the text and the spirit of the [ECHR].’

Ruling that the German authorities had not overstepped their margin of appreciation the court said that the interference with Williamson’s article 10 rights had been proportionate and ’necessary in a democratic society’. Williamson’s application was rejected as ’manifestly ill-founded’.