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Ex-DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson appears in court over sex offence charges

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the former leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has appeared in court in Newry, Northern Ireland to face multiple historical sexual offence charges.

He did not speak as he arrived at the court accompanied by his solicitor on Wednesday.

Sir Jeffrey, 61, quit as DUP leader last month after police charged him with historical sex offences, and stated in his letter to the party that he would be strenuously contesting the charges.

He was suspended from the DUP pending the outcome of a judicial process but remains MP for the Lagan Valley constituency, a seat he has held since 1997.

In a statement, the DUP said: “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.”

Sir Jeffrey was elected as DUP leader in 2021 and is currently the longest-serving MP in Northern Ireland.

He was initially elected as a member of the Ulster Unionist Party but left in 2003 to join the DUP due to his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement.

Additional reporting by PA

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