Ex-DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson in court over rape and sex offence charges

Former Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has appeared in court charged with rape and 10 other historical s.e.x offences. His wife, Lady Eleanor Donaldson, a co-accused in the case, faces four charges. The offences are alleged to have occurred between 1985 and 2006 and involve two alleged victims.

The pair were arrested at their home on 28 March and charged by police after a day of questioning.Sir Jeffrey, 61, who remains MP for Lagan Valley, quit as party leader with immediate effect.

He appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday facing 11 charges – one of rape; one of gross indecency involving a child; and nine counts of indecent assault. The charges against his 58-year-old wife are connected to aiding and abetting his alleged offences.

There was a huge media presence outside the entrance to the court as Sir Jeffrey arrived; they were taking pictures and some shouted questions.

Sir Jeffrey resigned as DUP leader within hours of being charged on 28 March, with Gavin Robinson appointed as the party’s interim leader.In a statement at the time, the party said Sir Jeffrey had stepped down with immediate effect.

It added that his party membership was also suspended “pending the outcome of a judicial process”.

Sir Jeffrey remains MP for the Lagan Valley constituency, a seat he has held since 1997.

He will not be asked to formally enter a plea at his first court appearance – that will happen at a later stage of proceedings.Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was elected leader of the DUP in 2021.

He is Northern Ireland’s longest-serving MP, having been first elected to Parliament in 1997 as a representative of the Ulster Unionist Party.In 2003, he left that party to join the DUP due to his long-standing opposition to the Good Friday Agreement and the leadership of David Trimble.

Sir Jeffrey recently steered the DUP back into government in Northern Ireland ending a two-year boycott of the devolved institutions.

Source: eNCA

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