Jeffrey Donaldson appears in court charged with sexual offences over 21-year period

Former DUP leader faces 11 charges as wife Eleanor Donaldson is charged with aiding and abetting rape and other offences

Former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has appeared in court charged with rape and other sexual offences on dates spanning more than two decades.

His wife Eleanor Donaldson, who faces four charges related to the same police investigation, appeared alongside him at Newry Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning.

Mr Donaldson faces a total of 11 charges – rape, gross indecency with or towards a child, and nine counts of indecent assault on a female. The charges relate to two alleged victims over a 21-year-period between 1985 and 2006.

The charge of rape is alleged to have taken place between January 1st, 1985 and January 1st, 1991 and that of gross indecency between January 1st, 2005 and December 31st, 2006.


The nine counts of indecent assault are alleged to have taken place on dates between January 1st, 1985 and January 1st, 2006.

Mr Donaldson (61) was arrested and charged last month and released on bail to appear in court in Newry, where he arrived on Wednesday morning for the first stage of the court process.

A large media presence gathered outside the courthouse ahead of Mr Donaldson’s arrival, and there was also a significant police presence.

During the hearing, which lasted less than ten minutes, Mr Donaldson, who was wearing a grey suit, stood in the dock alongside his wife.

Three prison custody escort officers accompanied them, with one separating the couple.

The former DUP leader, whose address was given as the DUP constituency office in Castle Street in Lisburn, spoke only to confirm his name, give his date of birth and say he understood the charges.

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

Most of the offences are alleged to have taken place on dates between January 1st, 1985 and December 31st, 1991.

One of the counts of cruelty to a person under 16 years is alleged to have taken place between January 1st, 1998 and December 31st, 2004.

She also spoke only to confirm her name and date of birth and that she understood the charges.

A police officer said he believed he could connect the defendants to the charges.

Both defendants were released on continuing bail of £350, subject to bail conditions.

Informing the judge of some changes to those bail conditions, the prosecution said the stipulation that there should be no contact between the defendants had been removed by consent.

The provision that the defendants should have no contact with a list of named prosecution witnesses was amended to prevent contact with any such witness, as the prosecution said more witnesses had been now been spoken to.

The case was adjourned until May 22nd, with the defendants not required to attend court on that date.

It took some time for Mr Donaldson to leave the court due to the large media presence, with at least 60 members of the press and a few dozen members of the public at the courthouse.

Police held the crowd back as it spilled onto New Street when he got into his car. He was accompanied by his solicitor, John McBurney.

Mr Donaldson resigned as DUP leader and was suspended from the party after he was arrested and charged on March 29th.

He remains the MP for Lagan Valley but has not taken part in any parliamentary business since his arrest.

The party’s deputy leader, the east Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, has been appointed interim leader of the DUP.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham

Seanín Graham is Northern Correspondent of The Irish Times