A leading law professor has joined the legal team representing the homophobic bakers at the centre of the so-called ‘gay cake’ case.

Professor Christopher McCrudden of Queen’s University has been enlisted for the team led by David Scoffield QC.

Christopher McCrudden is Professor of Human Rights and Equality Law at Queen’s University Belfast and William W Cook Global Law Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. Until 2011, he was Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. He studied law at Queen’s University Belfast, Yale University, and Oxford University.

The news  has emerged as lawyers for the bakery lodged court papers yesterday giving detailed explanations of the grounds for appeal following a court decision last year that ruled the firm had discriminated against a customer by refusing to make a £36.50 cake with a slogan supporting same-sex marriage, after initially accepting the order. The ‘gay cake’ featuring Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, became famous as news of the spectacle spread around the world.

Professor McCrudden’s appointment has been made in advance of the legal appeal which will be heard over two days starting on Wednesday, February 3.

In May last year a judge at Belfast County Court ruled that the bakery had acted unlawfully. The court ordered Ashers to pay £500 in damages after Judge Isobel Brownlie said the customer had been treated “less favourably” contrary to the law, and the bakery had breached political and sexual orientation discrimination regulations.

The McArthur family, who own and run Ashers, decided to challenge the ruling following consultation with their legal advisers.

The family’s defence costs are being supported by the Christian Institute (CI).

CI spokesman Simon Calvert said: “We are delighted to have such a formidable legal expert join an already strong team. Professor McCrudden’s experience and knowledge of human rights and equality law will be of incalculable assistance.

“We look forward to the hearing and remain confident that the McArthur family have a good case, which deserves to win.”