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DUP's Wells urged court to make an example of lies woman sent to jail for three months

By Paul Higgins

Published 26/08/2016

Dorothy Gardner at Downpatrick Magistrates Court
Dorothy Gardner at Downpatrick Magistrates Court
Jim Wells

A DUP Assembly member has revealed he asked a court to make an example of a woman who was given three months' jail after she maliciously lied to police by claiming he had made homophobic remarks.

Dungannon woman Dorothy Gardner had also refused to apologise for her lies about former Health Minister Jim Wells.

Jailing the shocked-looking 49-year-old at Downpatrick Magistrates' Court, Deputy District Judge Neil Rafferty said he had "thought long and hard" whether he could suspend the jail term but that "because of the aggravating features that I have outlined, I do not think it would be appropriate in this case to suspend the sentence."

Speaking outside the court, South Down MLA Mr Wells was asked if had sympathy for the mother-of-one, who had also made unsubstantiated claims she suffers from cancer.

"No I don't," he said. "I feel totally vindicated. This has been a terrible 18 months for me and for my family. My career was totally destroyed by lies that were told about me. At last, I have had my day in court, my name has been cleared and I feel totally vindicated."

However, the judge released Gardner on her own bail of £250, pending an appeal against the sentence.

Leaving the court, the defendant refused to comment when asked why she had not apologised for her lies, which contributed to Mr Wells' resignation.

Mr Wells said he was "surprised" at the custodial term, but revealed he had "asked that an example be made of this lady".

Minutes before her trial was set to start last month, Gardner, from the Killycanavan Road, admitted wasting police time by making a false report of a crime on April 28 last year.

She claimed in a police statement that she had attended a hustings event in Downpatrick and that Mr Wells had told the audience he believed treatment to HIV patients should be stopped and that children of gay parents would be abused.

Prosecuting lawyer Samuel Magee outlined how she further claimed that "Mr Wells had said something along the lines of 'the facts have shown me that any child brought up by two gay men or two gay women will be abused by their parents'".

Other allegations which turned out to be lies were Gardner's claims that she had attended a protest outside the hustings event, that she and three friends had been wearing jumpers declaring "I'm proud to be gay" on the front and "no politician will tell me who to love" on the rear.

Gardner also told the police that when Mr Wells made the comments she attributed to him, his fellow DUP politicians Nelson McCausland and Gregory Campbell "began laughing and agreeing with Mr Wells" and because she so was so upset she walked out of the meeting.

Paul Symington, editor of the Down Recorder, organised and chaired the hustings event on April 23. He provided a statement which was markedly different from Gardner's, outlining that neither Mr Campbell nor Mr McCausland were there and that Mr Wells did not make any reference to HIV patients.

A transcript of what he actually said proved Mr Wells told the audience that "under no circumstances" would he ever support gay marriage and that he believed: "Marriage is between a man and a woman, marriage is for the procreation and bringing up of children. 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 up a child in a homosexual relationship.

"But a child is far more likely to be abused or neglected (promoting a reaction from the audience), 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."

Gardner also alleged in her six-page statement that she had been visiting a gay couple in Rathfriland when, coincidentally, Mr Wells called at the door while canvassing and that she confronted him, "demanding his resignation".

Mr Magee told the court, however, that police investigations and statements proved that Gardner was lying as she had not been at the hustings event and did not even know the lesbian couple in Rathfriland.

"The remarks of Mr Wells remained the subject of investigation by the prosecuting authorities, however it was apparent that the version of events given by the defendant was not accurate and was a deliberate fabrication," said the lawyer.

During police interviews, Gardner admitted that she had not told the truth in her statement, that she had not attended the hustings event and had not been present when the canvassing incident occurred in Rathfriland, confessing that she made it up "to get" Jim wells.

She claimed that she had been undergoing cancer treatment, but the court heard that when police asked her to provide evidence of her diagnosis and treatment, she refused.

Making his plea in mitigation, defence barrister Noel Dillon revealed that Gardner had been in a civil partnership with another lady but that, tragically, her partner had died.

Judge Rafferty told Gardner that the "ultimate upshot of the investigation was that you were confronted during interview with the fact that you were not even present on either occasion and had simply fabricated your version of events in order to, as you put it, 'get' Mr Wells".

He added that he also had to consider the fact that by making false accusations, she had "brought to some extent, them (members of the LGBT community) into disrepute".

In imposing the three-month jail term, Judge Rafferty said he was not making any compensation order, but he did impose a £25 offender levy that Gardner must pay within 20 weeks.

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