Former DUP leader Donaldson facing more sex offence charges

Former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is to face additional historical sex offence charges in court on Wednesday.

Donaldson, 61, is expected to appear at Newry Magistrates’ Court for a preliminary enquiry (PE) hearing to establish if there is sufficient evidence to send him for trial.

During previous court hearings, Donaldson had faced 11 holding charges brought by police.

An evidence file has since been reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and the former DUP leader will now face 18 charges.

Former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson leaving Newry Magistrates’ Court after an earlier hearing
There was a large media and police presence when Sir Jeffrey Donaldson made his first appearance at Newry Magistrates’ Court in April (Niall Carson/PA)

He will face one charge of rape, four of gross indecency and 13 charges of indecent assault.

The charges span a time period between 1985 and 2008.

The previous holding charges will be withdrawn in court on Wednesday.

Donaldson has previously indicated that he will contest charges against him.

His co-accused, his wife Lady Eleanor Donaldson, 58, of Dublinhill Road, Dromore, faces charges of aiding and abetting in connection with the alleged offences.

The number of charges she faces has increased from four to five.

There are two alleged victims.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson court case
Lady Eleanor Donaldson faces charges of aiding and abetting in connection with the alleged offences (Brian Lawless/PA)

It has already been confirmed that Donaldson, who was the long-standing MP for Lagan Valley, is not running for re-election in the UK General Election this week.

He was arrested and charged in relation to the historical sexual allegations at the end of March.

Donaldson resigned as DUP leader and was suspended from the party after the allegations against him emerged.

It is understood that in a letter to DUP party officers at the time, he made clear he would be “strenuously contesting” all charges against him.

Weeks prior to his arrest, he had led the DUP back into Stormont following a two-year boycott of the powersharing institutions.

Previous deputy leader Gavin Robinson has been appointed his successor as DUP leader.

There was a large media and police presence when the two accused made their first appearance at Newry court in April. Wednesday will be the first occasion they have had to appear in court in person since then.