Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Peer convicted of road rage assault

Lord Maginnis has been convicted of assault

A peer has vowed to appeal against a conviction for assaulting a motorist in an angry road rage altercation after claiming in court he was the victim of a political conspiracy.

Lord Maginnis, 75, was found guilty of grabbing the other driver involved in the incident in Dungannon, Co Tyrone - 21-year-old Keith Kirk from the town - and threatening to punch him.

At Dungannon Magistrates' Court, the former Ulster Unionist MP conceded he called Mr Kirk a "yellow bellied b*****d" in the exchange in June last year, but he denied things had turned violent.

However district judge John Meehan, who said Lord Maginnis had aimed an "angry and abusive tirade" at his fellow road user, said he was satisfied the prosecution had proved the non-injury assault charge against the peer beyond reasonable doubt.

He fined the peer, from Park Lane in Dungannon, £200 and ordered him to pay a further £200 compensation to Mr Kirk.

In a colourful appearance in the witness box, Lord Maginnis, a former major in the Ulster Defence Regiment, had suggested that political factors were behind the prosecution.

He claimed a speech he had delivered in the House of Lords earlier this year, in which he referred to the incident as a non-offence, and his threat to take court proceedings against Stormont's Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry had both influenced the move to prosecute him nine months after the matter was first reported to police.

He told the judge: "I was foolish or frank enough in parliament on 19th March, 2013 to refer to this event as a non-offence that had been resolved."

The peer added: "At the time when the summons was issued I had threatened to seek a judicial review against a minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly (Mr Farry) whose party leader (David Ford) happens to be the minister for justice.

"That all this is coming together after nine months of silence suggests to me that somebody had simply said: 'Right, we'll spike Maginnis's guns."

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