Unionist peer Ken Maginnis has said he will go to prison rather than pay a £200 fine after being convicted of assaulting a man in a road rage incident.
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass was convicted yesterday at Dungannon Magistrates Court of assaulting a man in a road rage incident.
The 75-year-old has been ordered to pay a £200 fine and a further £200 in compensation to victim Keith Kirk, 21, who is from Dungannon.
But last night Lord Maginnis told the News Letter that he has lodged an appeal to the decision and that if it fails he will go to jail on a point of principle rather than pay a fine for something he “didn’t do”.
“It was all quite strange, really... and truly it’s a waste of my time, but I am damned if I am going to — not should I go to Maghaberry — am I going to pay a fine for something I didn’t do,” he said.
“As a matter of principle, maybe principle doesn’t matter any more but it matters to me...Whoever said the law is an ass has my whole-hearted full support.”
Lord Maginnis said he has been driving for over 60 years — since he was 13 driving a grocers’ van — and that this is only the second time he has been convicted for an offence after being caught speeding on the M1 motorway in 2000.
The incident the peer was found guilty of yesterday took place in Dungannon town centre last year and he admitted calling Mr Kirk a “yellow-bellied b*****d”. District judge John Meehan said Lord Maginnis had aimed an “angry and abusive tirade” at his fellow road user and accepted the prosecution case.
Speaking to the News Letter last night Lord Maginnis said he only ever recalls being the subject of one other driving offence – driving at 88mph on the M1 motorway in 2000 on the way to a television interview in Belfast.
He said he contested those charges in court because he had been caught by police in an unmarked car.
“It was the time when I was an MP – there was a lot of chat around that time about unmarked police cars. I decided I would go to court on the basis it was an unmarked police car,” he told the News Letter.
The 75-year-old said his family are fully supportive of him.
“They haven’t even mentioned it – they enjoy life,” he said.
Lord Maginnis worked as a schoolteacher for a number of years before joining the UDR in 1971.
He left, as a Major, in 1981.
The peer served as the Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone from 1983 to 2001. He was made a Lord, but last year he resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party following a dispute with leader Mike Nesbitt over controversial comments about homosexuality.