DUP memo to party members on Donaldson charges

2 weeks ago 22

Gavin RobinsonImage source, Pacemaker

Image caption,

Gavin Robinson was unanimously appointed as DUP interim leader by the party officers on Friday

By Jayne McCormack

BBC News NI political correspondent

The DUP's thoughts are "with those who have put their faith" in the criminal justice system, Gavin Robinson has said.

He made the remarks in an internal newsletter to all members on Saturday after becoming interim DUP leader.

Sir Jeffrey said he will be strenuously contesting the charges.

In the memo sent to DUP members, Mr Robinson said the police service and courts "must be allowed to complete their processes without interference".

"Nothing that any of us say or do, must in anyway compromise that process," he wrote.

"There will be some who will attempt to score cheap political points, but I know that colleagues and friends across Northern Ireland will ignore the noise and focus on what really matters."

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has issued a statement in reaction to social media commentary following yesterday's resignation of Sir Jeffrey.

The PSNI statement does not name the former DUP leader but police say they are "aware of ongoing commentary on social media platforms" following the arrest and charges of a 61-year-old man in relation to non-recent sexual offences.

It goes on to remind social media users and news editors that "in investigations of this kind, victims are given complete anonymity by law unless they choose to waive that themselves".

"The publication of any information which is likely to lead to the identification of victims is a criminal offence, and can be investigated accordingly," it says.

Image source, PA Media

Image caption,

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been charged with rape and other historical sexual offences

Mr Robinson went on to say that the DUP is "not about any one individual".

"We are a party of MPs, MLAs, councillors, and scores of dedicated members across all parts of Northern Ireland.

"We exist to build a better and stronger Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom."

The DUP's party officers met on Friday and appointed Mr Robinson as interim leader.

In a statement it 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."

Sir Jeffrey's letter to the DUP said he would be strenuously contesting the charges.

A 57-year-old woman has also been charged with aiding and abetting in connection with the alleged offences.

They were both arrested on Thursday morning by PSNI detectives and were questioned before being charged on Thursday night.

He and the 57-year-old woman are due to appear in court next month.

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