Belfast Telegraph

Lord Maginnis cries conspiracy after road rage conviction

Peer was 'angry and abusive' during incident

BY ADRIAN RUTHERFORD

Former Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis has claimed that a political conspiracy led to him being prosecuted over a road rage assault.

The 75-year-old peer was convicted yesterday of grabbing a young man by the arm and threatening to punch him in Dungannon last summer.

Lord Maginnis, who admitted calling his 21-year-old victim "a yellow-bellied b*****d", had denied the charge of common assault.

District Judge John Meehan said he was satisfied the prosecution had proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.

The peer was fined £200 and ordered to pay a further £200 in compensation.

Lord Maginnis previously claimed a House of Lords speech, in which he referred to the incident as a non-offence, and his threat to take court proceedings against Employment Minister Stephen Farry, 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."

But prosecution lawyer John O'Neill rejected the claim.

Speaking later, Lord Maginnis said an appeal had already been lodged.

"I'm obviously not letting it rest there," he added.

"One might think, well, what's a couple of hundred pounds – it's my reputation and I'm appealing it, I can assure you I'm appealing it."

The victim, Keith Kirk, left court without making any comment.

The case centred on a road-rage incident between Lord Maginnis and Mr Kirk in the Perry Street area of Dungannon on June 7 last year.

Mr Kirk was driving his sister to the bank when he claimed the peer suddenly pulled out of a junction in front of him, causing him to brake sharply.

The driver, later identified as Lord Maginnis, stopped, got out and walked towards Mr Kirk.

"He grabbed my right arm with his left hand and he had his right hand in a fist," Mr Kirk told Dungannon Magistrates Court.

"He was threatening to hit me with it."

Mr Kirk said Lord Maginnis had called him "a yellow-bellied b*****d".

The prosecution conceded it was a non-injury assault and that Lord Maginnis had not struck Mr Kirk.

Defence lawyer Paul Bacon accused Mr Kirk of being the aggressor.

Mr Kirk strongly denied this assertion.

Lord Maginnis told the court that he had a clear recollection of the incident, alleging how Mr Kirk's car appeared to "skite out" of a junction.

"I saw him make the squiver to come out and then to come like a hurricane up the road towards me to within inches of my car and then he blew the horn," he said.

Lord Maginnis said he got out of his car to challenge Mr Kirk, and accused the young man of lying about his account of what happened.

Asked by prosecuting lawyer John O'Neill if he said anything else, Lord Maginnis replied: "I probably did."

"I remember saying 'you don't bully me you yellow-bellied b*****d ... and I apologise for what I said."

Asked if he had put his hands on Mr Kirk, Lord Maginnis said: "I neither did nor was I capable of."

Later he interjected: "Would a 75-year-old man have a punch-up with what he believed to be two 20-year-old fellas? You must be joking."

Mr Meehan took less than 10 minutes to find Lord Maginnis guilty.

Imposing the fine, compensation order and a £15 offender levy, the judge said he had taken Lord Maginnis's years of public service into account.

Mr Meehan said the peer's "angry and abusive tirade" had left Mr Kirk and his sister "in fear".

He said it was "very sad" that Lord Maginnis – who served 18 years as MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone – had appeared in court on this matter.

PROFILE

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass has long been an outspoken character. The ex-UDR major and teacher was a critic of the Anglo Irish Agreement in the 1980s, including being sentenced to a jail term, but was a staunch supporter of the Good Friday Agreement. He resigned from the Ulster Unionist Party last year after having the whip withdrawn over comments he made about homosexuality.

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