Northern Ireland

Jim Wells: Woman's sentence downgraded after apology

Dorothy Gardner, 49, of Killycanavan Road, had alleged she attended a hustings event in which same-sex parenting was discussed Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Dorothy Gardner had alleged she attended a hustings event in which same-sex parenting was discussed

A Dungannon woman who admitted making false statements about a DUP assembly member has had her sentence downgraded.

In August, Dorothy Gardner was sentenced to three months in jail, but was released on bail pending appeal.

A judge has now ruled her sentence should be reduced to community service and a probation order.

Gardner, of Killycanavan Road, made a public apology to former health minister, Jim Wells, at her appeal hearing on Friday.

She said she was "deeply sorry" for what she had done.

The judge said that having considered the contents of a probation pre-sentence report and defence submissions, he was imposing 100 hours of community service and a 15 month probation order.

Gardner initially alleged that she attended an April 2015 hustings event in Downpatrick, during which the issue of same-sex parenting was discussed.

Jim Wells made controversial remarks about same-sex relationships. He later resigned as health minister.

Gardner then made a formal complaint to police.

It included a statement claiming she had been at the event and heard the remarks, but a detective later realised that the 49-year-old's account didn't add up.

Image caption Jim Wells said he had been vindicated by the outcome of the case

She claimed she was with a group of protestors, wearing tops with the inscription "I'm proud to be gay" on the front and "No politician will tell me who to love" on the back.

She also claimed she had heckled Mr Wells and in response, the DUP's Nelson McCausland and Gregory Campbell had laughed at her.

Gardner told police she had video footage supporting her story.

In August, the court heard that Mr McCausland and Mr Campbell were not at the event and that no video footage was produced by Gardner. Nor did CCTV footage demonstrate any such protest group attended.

Gardner also claimed to be suffering from cancer, but the court was told that no evidence had been provided and she had not attended a probation appointment to discuss a pre-sentence report.

The court was also told that Ms Gardner had claimed to be at the home of a lesbian couple in Rathfriland when Jim Wells came to the door canvassing.

Police investigations revealed that this was also not true and that the couple in question had no knowledge of Ms Gardner.

The court heard that Ms Gardner admitted she had wanted to "get Jim Wells".

The judge said that fabricating statements attacked the very heart of due process and that false statement made by Ms Gardner not only wasted police time but could impact on legitimate complaints from the LGBT community.

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