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Unionist peer acquitted of motoring offences fought case to 'defend rights of fellow pensioners'

By Alan Erwin

Published 11/03/2016

Lord Maginnis
Lord Maginnis

A unionist peer acquitted today of motoring offences claims he fought the case to defend the rights of fellow pensioners.

Lord Maginnis also hit out at witness evidence on which he had been accused of driving without a licence.

As charges against the 78-year-old were dismissed at Belfast Magistrates' Court, he said: "Obviously I'm relieved because this has been hell, waiting and waiting to appear like a criminal.

"But this wasn't just a matter of Ken Maginnis and some bureaucrat, it was a matter of protecting the rights of old age pensioners."

The former Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP, who quit the Ulster Unionist Party in 2012, faced allegations of having no driving licence and using a motor vehicle without insurance.

The case centred on an alleged incident as he sought the renewal of his driver's licence last year.

Lord Maginnis, who now sits as an independent unionist peer, said he had opposed requests to supply medical records as part of his application.

But on May 5, 2015 he attended Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) offices at Corporation Street in Belfast to collect the renewed permit - allegedly dated to come into effect two days later.

A member of DVA staff claimed in a police statement that he saw Lord Maginnis get into the driver's side of a vehicle before it exited the car park.

The Dungannon-based veteran unionist was set to represent himself as he contested the charges in court today.

But the case against him collapsed after it emerged that the witness could not definitively say who had been driving the vehicle on Corporation Street.

On that basis District Judge Desmond Perry dismissed both counts against the defendant.

Outside court Lord Maginnis expressed relief at an outcome reached without the need for him to make any submissions.

He claimed, however, that the reasoning behind handing him a licence which only became valid 48 hours later was "inexplicable".

He added: "I'm angry that I didn't get the chance to put (the prosecution witness) through the hoops."

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