FIRST COURT APPEARANCE: Jeffrey Donaldson arrives at Newry Courthouse on Wednesday morning

Former DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson in court over rape and sex offence charges

FORMER DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has appeared at Newry Magistrates’ Court this morning facing a number of historical sex charges.

He arrived at the courthouse on Wednesday morning at around 9.30am amid a media scrum, surrounded by photographers.

Donaldson (61) made no comment to questions from the media as he walked from a car through the front entrance, accompanied by his solicitor.

The sex charges facing Donaldson span a period of more than 20 years between 1985 and 2006 and involve two alleged victims.

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The Lagan Valley MP is facing 11 charges: one count of rape, one count of gross indecency towards a child and nine counts of indecent assault on a female.

His wife, Eleanor Donaldson (58), faces four charges of aiding and abetting which span a 10-year period. She arrived at court separately, wearing a black suit and grey jumper.

Eleanor Donaldson (58) arriving at Newry Magistrate's Court

Eleanor Donaldson (58) arriving at Newry Magistrate's Court

During a short hearing, the pair appeared in the dock together, separated by a custody officer.  District Judge Eamonn King agreed that bail conditions prohibiting contact between Jeffrey Donaldson and Eleanor Donaldson could be removed. Both were released on bail of £350 each. 

The case will be mentioned next on May 22 but both the accused are excused from appearing.