Peer facing 80p court case feels ‘set upon’ since bestiality row

Lord Maginnis says that he will go to jail rather than pay the fine
Lord Maginnis says that he will go to jail rather than pay the fine

A veteran unionist peer who is facing huge legal bills over an 80p discrepancy in a train fare has said that he feels “set upon” since he made controversial comments which linked homosexuality to bestiality.

Lord Maginnis was stripped of the UUP whip in 2012 after describing homosexuality as “a rung on the ladder” to bestiality.

The fallout from the comments, which were made on the Stephen Nolan Show, ultimately led to him quitting the UUP a couple of months later.

Now the former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP is facing a legal bill of more than £5,000 over a court case which stems from him wrongly choosing a £22.25 ticket from an automatic ticket machine in London rather than the appropriate £23.05 ticket for a rail journey in 2014.

The 78-year-old peer, who now sits as an ‘Independent Ulster Unionist’ in the House of Lords, said that his young granddaughter had been travelling with him on the day in question and he believes that he may have been distracted by her presence into choosing the incorrect option from the machine.

The peer, who used a debit card to make the payment, has now sent 21 pages of bank statements to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to prove that the day in question was the only occasion on which he did not pay the correct fare.

In his letter to the PPS, Lord Maginnis said in bold type: “I have made it clear that I will not pay and understand the consequences.”

Making clear that he is prepared to go to prison over the 80p discrepancy in the fare, Lord Maginnis told the News Letter that he had told one judge: “I said I’m not paying it. Is that clear?”

The peer said that he believes himself to have been unfairly targeted in various ways since the controversial exchange on Radio Ulster.

“I hate to put it in these terms, but I’ve just been set upon by everybody over the last three years,” he said.

“I’m almost paranoid about it now.

“I can’t look sideways but somebody wants to have a go at me.”

He added: “If I was cheating anybody of 80p, it was for the government because they repay the money when I’m travelling [as Parliamentary expenses] – why on earth would I do that?”

The case, which has been transferred from South London Magistrates’ Court to the Northern Ireland court system, was heard in Dungannon Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

The peer was not present, saying that he had not received a summons.

The court ruled that the summons be served on him in person.