Date set for hearing into Jeffrey Donaldson sexual abuse charges

Former DUP leader accused of rape and other offences, wife Eleanor faces charges of aiding and abetting

A preliminary enquiry (PE) into the historical sexual abuse charges faced by the former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson will take place on July 3rd.

The date was set during a brief hearing at Newry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Neither Mr Donaldson nor his co-accused, his wife Eleanor Donaldson, were present in court, as both had been excused from attending.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Donaldson’s solicitor John McBurney confirmed his client would not seek re-election as an MP, but said he did not intend to stand down immediately.


“I can indicate that it is not Jeffrey’s intention of course to stand for re-election,” he said. “He will be concentrating on the case and defending the charges.

“He is continuing as the MP at the present time, there’s various matters to be dealt [with], constituency matters and administrative matters to do with his offices and so forth,” Mr McBurney said.

Last month Mr Donaldson (61), with an address at the DUP constituency office in Castle Street in Lisburn, appeared in court charged with rape and other sexual offences on dates spanning more than two decades.

In total, he faces 11 charges - rape, gross indecency with or towards a child, and nine counts of indecent assault on a female – on dates between 1985 and 2006.

Mrs Donaldson (58), with an address in Dromore, Co Down, is charged with aiding and abetting rape and aiding and abetting indecent assault and two counts of cruelty to a person under 16 years old on dates between 1985 and 2004.

The next stage in the court process following the first appearance of the defendants last month, a PE is held to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send the case for trial in the Crown Court.

Confirming the date for the committal proceedings, District Judge Eamonn King said a review would be held on June 12th “to make sure we are on track for the PE on the 3rd of July.”

Barrister Fiona O’Kane, appearing on behalf of the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS), said the case was progressing “quite expeditiously.”

During the hearing, a lawyer representing Mr Donaldson asked the judge to agree to what he described as an “uncontentious” amendment to his client’s bail conditions.

He said that when Mr Donaldson was arrested one of his bail conditions stipulated that he have “no unsupervised contact” with anyone under the age of 16, but when his police bail was converted to court bail after his first appearance last month, the word “unsupervised” had been omitted.

This meant the bail condition stated Mr Donaldson was to have no contact with anyone under 16.

He said Mr Donaldson’s legal team had spoken to the investigating officer and the PPS and there was “no issue” the court bail could be amended to read “no unsupervised contact.”

Ms O’Kane said the “only stipulation we would ask is that the supervision cannot be by the co-defendant.”

The judge ordered Mr Donaldson’s bail condition should be amended to “no unsupervised contact with any person under the age of 16″ and the supervisor was not to be his co-accused, Mrs Donaldson.

Fixing the PE for July 3rd, the district judge said Mr and Mrs Donaldson would have to attend court on that date. - Additional reporting – PA.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times