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Case against dying mum accused of wasting police time over Jim Wells controversy adjourned

By Noel McAdam

Published 01/04/2016

Jim Wells outside Downpatrick court yesterday
Jim Wells outside Downpatrick court yesterday
Dorothy Elaine Dawn Gardner

A court case against a woman accused of wasting police time linked to the controversy that led to the resignation of the DUP's Jim Wells as Health Minister has been adjourned.

The woman, Dorothy Elaine Dawn Gardner (48), of Killycanavan Road, Dungannon, was not present for the brief opening of the case at Downpatrick Courthouse yesterday.

A barrister for Ms Gardner asked for a four-week adjournment of the case.

District Judge Alan White asked why more time than the usual two-week adjournment would not suffice.

The barrister said that further representations required might involve the preparation of medical reports.

The judge said, given the circumstances, he would agree to the adjournment until April 28.

It has emerged Ms Gardner is battling terminal cancer. In August 2014 she was given just a year to live by medics.

Mr Wells was sitting outside the courtroom and did not hear the two-minute proceedings.

The South Down MLA wanted to make a statement to the court if the defendant had pleaded guilty and the case had gone ahead.

The full charge alleges Ms Gardner "caused wasteful employment of the police by knowingly making a false report or statement tending to show that an offence had been committed by Mr James Wells MLA".

The charge was not read to the court and the case was only referred to by its number on the court list rather than by name.

It is not being connected to a separate police enquiry into the taping of allegedly anti-gay remarks by Mr Wells at a public event in the run-up to last year's general election.

Instead, it is believed to relate to a complaint made to the PSNI following a hustings meeting in Downpatrick last April.

Mr Wells has been selected by the party to contest the Assembly election and would like the case dealt with before polling day on May 5.

He has long claimed that a recording of allegedly anti-gay comments at the event was "doctored" and gave a misleading impression.

A few days after the hustings event he was also involved in an altercation with a lesbian couple while canvassing in Rathfriland.

Police investigated both incidents but concluded there was no basis for a prosecution of Mr Wells. At the hustings event he had said: "All evidence throughout the world says the best way to raise children is in a loving, stable, married relationship; the facts show that, the facts show that certainly you don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship."

Against a background of uproar, he then added: "I say again, I say again, a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected in a non-stable marriage situation, gay or straight."

He argued that in the full context his remarks overall made clear he was talking about unstable relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual.

He told the Belfast Telegraph last year: "Essentially, I resigned over remarks which it now turns out I did not say.

"I feel a huge sense of injustice.

"My whole career in politics, over 33 years, came crashing down in 17 seconds.

"As Health Minister, I thought I might achieve something. I thought: 'Well, finally, I have something to put on my tombstone', and I felt I was beginning to come to terms with the job, which I enjoyed, but it all came tumbling down."

It is believed prosecutors were satisfied that in exchanges not captured in the video clip Mr Wells made clear he was arguing children were more at risk of abuse in "unstable" relationships, whether heterosexual or same-sex.

Mr Gardner has publicly spoken of her fight with the disease and how she planned to spend her final few months helping the people of Gaza.

Following her diagnosis in February 2011 the mother underwent a double mastectomy, had her glands removed and underwent four courses of chemotherapy, as well as three weeks of radiotherapy.

After she learned that her cancer was at stage three in 2014, and that she would die of the disease, she travelled to the war-torn region with four loads of aid from across Northern Ireland

She said she would rather be doing something to help those worse off than herself, and at the same time leave a legacy of which her son, who was five at the time, could be proud of.

"I have always been a humanitarian activist," she said.

"I am a woman with cancer, but from a personal point of view… I see myself in a First World country with my rights."

Having handed over care of her son to his grandmother while she made the journey, Ms Gardner said she spoke to him via Skype every day and that he told her: 'Mummy, you're so brave'.

"My cancer's going to take me, but if I can help save just one life, then I know that I have done something that makes it worthwhile," she said.

"That's the values that I want to give my son - to help others.

"He sees mummy as a hero, but I'm just Dorothy.

"I'm taking a risk going out there but I see that with my terminal illness that my wish is just to see another person live in their own country in peace and to have food.

" I want to show my son that mummy has done something."

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