Ex-leader of Northern Ireland's biggest unionist party faces sex offense charges dating to 1985 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Ex-leader of Northern Ireland's biggest unionist party faces sex offense charges dating to 1985

Former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, left, arrives at Newry Magistrates' Court, where he is charged with several historical sexual offences, in Newry, Northern Ireland, Wednesday April 24, 2024. Sir Jeffrey resigned as DUP leader and was suspended from the party following the charges. (Niall Carson/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — The former leader of Northern Ireland’s biggest unionist party made his first court appearance Wednesday on sexual abuse charges dating back nearly four decades.

Jeffrey Donaldson, 61, faces one charge of rape and 10 other counts dating from 1985 to 2006.

His wife, Eleanor Mary Elizabeth Donaldson, 58, faces four counts of aiding and abetting the alleged crimes.

The two did not enter pleas during a brief appearance together in Newry Magistrates Court. They spoke only to confirm their names, birth dates and to acknowledge they understood the charges. They were released on bail.

Donaldson resigned as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, after he was arrested on March 28.

In a letter to party leaders, Donaldson said he would be “strenuously contesting” the charges.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the arrest followed a complaint about “non-recent offenses” that was made in early March. The charges involve two alleged victims.

Donaldson faces a count of rape, a single charge of gross indecency and nine indecent assault charges.

His resignation shocked the DUP just months after the party agreed to return to Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government after he won concessions on Britain’s post-Brexit trading arrangements with the European Union.

As leader of the DUP between 2021 and 2023, he was the most powerful figure in Northern Ireland’s unionist movement, which seeks to maintain the region’s historic ties to the United Kingdom.

The court case was adjourned until May 22.

News from © The Associated Press, 2024
The Associated Press

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