Jim Wells accuser admits wasting police time

Dorothy Elaine Gardner at an earlier hearing at Downpatrick court
Dorothy Elaine Gardner at an earlier hearing at Downpatrick court

A Dungannon woman who made a false statement to police alleging DUP MLA Jim Wells made homophobic statements during a hustings event last year confessed to wasting police time on Monday.

Forty-nine-year-old Dorothy Elaine Gardner, of Killycanavan Road, appeared at Downpatrick Magistrate’s Court, where she admitted wasting police time by making a false report of a crime on April 28 last year.

DUP MLA Jim Wells

DUP MLA Jim Wells

There was uproar following a Downpatrick hustings event when Mr Wells, who was Stormont Health Minister at the time, was wrongly reported to have made homophobic comments criticising gay parents.

Although a transcript later proved he had not made the allegations, the incident contributed to him losing his job several days later.

Gardener made a formal complaint to police after the hustings which included a statement claiming she had been at the event and heard the remarks.

A police investigation later cleared Mr Wells and concluded Gardener had not been present at the hustings.

At Monday’s hearing, a defence barrister said Gardner was pleading guilty and the case was put back for four weeks for a pre-sentence report.

Mr Wells was in court and said afterwards Gardner’s guilty plea had “vindicated” him.

The MLA said his reputation and political career were destroyed by a series of totally false reports of what he said at the hustings as a result of which he was forced to resign as Health Minister and suffered months of online abuse.

“The full transcript and video of my speech and the notes of the five experienced reporters who covered the event clearly confirmed that I never made the alleged remarks,” said Mr Wells.

“I am relieved by today’s guilty plea as it represents a first, but major, step towards my total vindication.

“It is the first a series of court cases which I have instigated in order to clear my name and restore my reputation.

“I now hope that Ms Gardner and the other individuals who sought to destroy my reputation will now publicly apologise for the huge damage they have caused me over the last 14 months.

‘The South Down Association of the DUP has given me their full support since the hustings event as have the electorate who returned me as their MLA on May 5.

“I will not rest until all those who were responsible for my downfall are brought to justice.”