The Herald (Ireland)

Ex-DUP leader Donaldson and his wife due to appear in court again next month

- EIMEAR MCGOVERN

Former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson will be expected to return to Northern Ireland next month to appear in court on historical sex abuse charges.

During a short court hearing at Newry Magistrate­s Court yesterday, prosecutio­n barrister Fiona O’Kane confirmed that the case would be ready to proceed to the preliminar­y enquiry stage on July 3, as was previously planned.

Before any criminal case can be elevated to the crown court, the prosecutio­n must establish there is a prima facie case against an accused person and that is done through a preliminar­y enquiry.

Defence lawyers for Mr Donaldson and his wife Eleanor spoke only to confirm that they had received the prosecutio­n file on Tuesday and would also be ready to proceed on that date.

Eleanor Donaldson will also have to appear in person on that date next month.

Outgoing Lagan Valley MP Mr Donaldson has been charged with rape and 10 other historical sex offences, which he strenuousl­y denies.

Ms Donaldson is a co-accused in the case and faces four charges connected to aiding and abetting his alleged offences, which she also denies.

The offences are alleged to have occurred between 1985 and 2006 and involve two alleged victims.

The pair were arrested at their home on March 28 and charged by police after a day of questionin­g.

Neither of them has responded publicly to the charges.

The last time the pair appeared in court was in April when there was a huge media presence.

On that occasion, the pair spoke only to confirm their names and dates of birth and that they understood the charges against them.

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