Jeffrey Donaldson steps down as DUP leader and is suspended after being charged with ‘historical sex offences’

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has stepped down as leader of the DUP and has been suspended by the party after being charged with 'historical sex offences'. Gavin Robinson MP is to serve as interim party leader.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has today stepped down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after being charged with ‘historical sex offences’.

He and a 57-year-old woman will appear before Newry Magistrates Court next month. In a letter to the DUP, Donaldson said he will be strenuously denying the charges.

UTV News are reporting that the charges against Sir Jeffrey include “one count of rape, one of gross indecency and several of indecent assault.”

“The Party Chairman has received a letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP confirming that he has been charged with allegations of an historical nature and indicating that he is stepping down as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect.

In accordance with the Party Rules, the Party Officers have suspended Mr Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process.

The Party Officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the Interim Party Leader.”

– DUP Spokesperson

In a statement, the DUP confirmed that Gavin Robinson MP will serve as interim party leader.

Gavin Robinson MP left was deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party DUP and will now serve as interim party leader Robinson was appointed deputy leader in June 2023

The PSNI issued a statement on Friday morning which said that a 61-year-old man had been charged with “non-recent sexual offences” adding that a 57-year-old woman was also arrested at the same time and charged with “aiding and abetting additional offences”.

Shortly after midnight on Friday, it was discovered that all of Jeffrey Donaldson’s social media accounts had been disabled, including on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and LinkedIn.

The DUP have removed all references to Donaldson from their website, including pictures and his party leader section, now replaced with Gavin Robinson.

As he was suspended by the DUP, he no longer represents them in the House of Commons but will remain as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lagan Valley unless he resigns – which could trigger a by-election.

Donaldson was instrumental in the DUP’s return to power-sharing at Stormont.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that her priority is to “continue to provide the leadership the public expect and deserve, and to ensure the four-party Executive coalition delivers for the whole of our community now and in the future”.

She added, “This is now a matter for the criminal justice system.”

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