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Maginnis cleared of driving without a licence or insurance

By Christopher Woodhouse

Published 12/03/2016

Court: Ken Maginnis yesterday
Court: Ken Maginnis yesterday

Former MP, Lord Ken Maginnis, hailed "justice at its best" as a judge dismissed driving charges against him.

The former Ulster Unionist was in court yesterday accused of driving his Honda without a licence or insurance on May 5 last year.

But District Judge Desmond Perry threw out the charges as the sole witness, DVLA chief executive Paul Duffy, said he could not see who was driving Lord Maginnis' car at the time.

At Belfast Magistrates' Court on Friday, Mr Duffy explained he reported Lord Maginnis to the police following a meeting with him at DVLA headquarters on Corporation Street, Belfast.

Mr Duffy said he saw the 78-year-old leave the building and get into a burgundy-coloured car through the driver's door.

He added he saw a woman sitting in the passenger seat and that there was no one else in the car, which reversed and drove out the main gate and then onto Corporation Street. Mr Duffy then reported Lord Maginnis to police because he believed he did not possess a valid driving licence.

The former UUP MP had previously rejected requests by the DVLA to supply medical records so they could renew his licence.

However, in his statement of evidence, Mr Duffy could not say definitively that he saw the former Fermanagh and South Tyrone politician actually driving the vehicle.

Stating his intention to dismiss the case, Judge Perry said that he was hidebound by Mr Duffy's statement as it was the entirety of the evidence against Lord Maginnis.

A prosecution lawyer argued there was no one else who could have driven the vehicle and there could be no other explanation other than the car driving itself.

However, Judge Perry said that Mr Duffy could not say for certain who was in control of the vehicle.

He added that the sole witness was asking the court to conclude that Lord Maginnis was driving the car but said he could not reach this conclusion based on his statement.

Lord Maginnis, who represented himself, told the court he was there not just for himself but on behalf of all pensioners he claimed were being "exploited".

Speaking after the conclusion of the case, he told the Belfast Telegraph that it was a great day for the justice system.

"I'm pleased - I have seen justice at its best," he said. I appealed to the minister (of the environment) over the 22 months, during which time Mr Duffy tried to prevent me going about my daily business."

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