Northern Ireland's deputy FM ‘shocked and devastated’ after Jeffrey Donaldson charged over ‘historic sex offences’

30 March 2024, 15:10

Jeffrey Donaldson has quit over alleged historic sex offences
Jeffrey Donaldson has quit over alleged historic sex offences. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly has said she is ‘shocked and devastated’ after DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson stepped down over alleged historic sex offences.

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"Victims must always have the best opportunity for justice. This must be fully respected and supported," said Ms Little-Pengelly.

"My thoughts are with those suffering who have put their faith in the criminal justice system.

The DUP said on Good Friday that Jeffrey Donaldson had stepped down as party leader after being charged with historic sex offences.

Donaldson was also suspended from the Northern Irish party with immediate effect.

Emma Little-Pengelly
Emma Little-Pengelly. Picture: Alamy

A spokesperson for the DUP said yesterday : "The Party Chairman has received a letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP confirming that he has been charged with allegations of an historical nature and indicating that he is stepping down as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect.

"In accordance with the Party Rules, the Party Officers have suspended Mr Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process.

"The Party Officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the Interim Party Leader."

Donaldson, 61, led the Northern Irish party from 2021, and has been an MP since 1997. He was knighted in 2016.

Read more: DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson 'charged with historic sex offences' as he steps down as party leader

Read more: DUP endorses deal to restore Northern Ireland's devolved Parliament after crunch talks

Jeffrey Donaldson
Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture: Getty

Police said earlier that a 61-year-old man had been charged with non-recent sexual offences in Northern Ireland.

Officers also arrested and charged a 57-year-old woman with aiding abetting additional offences. Officers did not name either the man or the woman.

Police said: "Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested and charged a 61-year-old man for non-recent sexual offences.

"A 57-year-old woman was also arrested and charged at the time for aiding and abetting additional offences.

Jeffrey Donaldson
Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture: Getty

"Both are due to appear before Newry Magistrates Court on 24 April.

"As is usual procedure, all charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service."

Donaldson remains an MP.

A spokesperson for the House of Commons said: "We are aware of the announcement by the police, but will not be commenting on individual cases."