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BBC's Nolan sued by Jim wells over gay 'child abuse' story

Former Health Minister takes action over claims that 'destroyed career'

By Deborah McAleese

Published 29/07/2016

DUP MLA Jim Wells
DUP MLA Jim Wells
Broadcaster Stephen Nolan
Dorothy Elaine Dawn Gardner

MLA Jim Wells has launched legal proceedings against Stephen Nolan and the BBC over the reporting of gay child abuse comments that ended his career as Health Minister.

The DUP politician said he was determined to restore his name and integrity after being accused of making controversial comments linking child abuse and gay relationships during a hustings event last year.

Mr Wells has long claimed that a recording of the allegedly anti-gay speech was "doctored" and gave a misleading impression of what he said.

The comments were featured on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show in April last year, and Mr Wells has now decided to sue the programme's popular host, Mr Nolan, and the BBC for defamation.

Writs against the radio star and corporation have been lodged with the High Court.

However, the BBC said yesterday, it was unaware of any legal action initiated by Mr Wells.

Defamation proceedings have also been launched by the South Down MLA against a Belfast blogger and another woman.

Mr Wells said he was not currently in a position to confirm all the names of those people he had decided to sue.

However, he did confirm that writs have been served.

"My career was totally destroyed by completely false allegations," Mr Wells said. "Whilst I accept the vast majority of people in South Down now believe me, there are still others who don't.

"I have a long battle ahead to clear my name, but I will see it through. It has been a trying time, but I can see things coming into line.

"I will stop at nothing to clear my name. I am going to restore my name and integrity."

Mr Wells indicated he also intended to take action against a number of other organisations and individuals.

There was a furious backlash against the MLA following a hustings debate in Downpatrick last year.

During the event, Mr Wells said: "All evidence throughout the world says the best way to raise children is in a loving, stable, married relationship.

"The facts show that certainly you don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship."

Immediately afterwards, against a backdrop of uproar from the audience, he then added: "I say again... a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non-stable marriage situation, gay or straight."

Mr Wells later argued that in the full context, his remarks made it clear he was talking about unstable relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

Two days later, the DUP politician was involved in an altercation with a lesbian couple while canvassing in Rathfriland. The events led to his resignation as Health Minister.

A police investigation into both incidents concluded there was no basis to prosecute him.

On Monday, a Co Tyrone woman was told by a judge that she could face prison after admitting to wasting police time over the hustings row.

Dorothy Elaine Dawn Gardner, a 48-year-old from Dungannon, pleaded guilty to charges of knowingly making a false report or statement over the DUP MLA's allegedly homophobic remarks at the pre-election meeting.

Mr Wells said the criminal case represented "a first but major step towards my total vindication".

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