Woman who wasted police time with false allegations about Jim Wells wins appeal over jail term
A woman who confessed to making false statements to police about former Health Minister Jim Wells has had her jail term downgraded to probation and community service orders.
Standing in the dock of Downpatrick County Court, 49-year-old Dorothy Elaine Gardner made a public and personal apology to Mr Wells, who was sitting in the public gallery.
After Judge Piers Grant's comments that she had yet to say sorry for her malicious actions, Gardner said she was "deeply sorry" for what she had done and wanted to apologise to Mr Wells "from the bottom of my heart."
Last August she was sentenced to three months in jail, before being released on bail pending an appeal.
Yesterday, Judge Grant said that having considered the contents of a probation pre-sentence report and defence submissions, he was imposing 100 hours of community service and a 15-month probation order.
Commenting that there was a "fine line" between fantasy and lies, he warned Gardiner that if she breached either order or failed to complete the 100 hours, she would be brought back before him to be resentenced and would likely face the prospect of jail.
Before her trial was set to start last July, Gardner, originally from Dungannon but now living on the Killucan Road in Cookstown, admitted wasting police time by making a false report of a crime on April 28 last year.
She had claimed in a police statement that she had attended a hustings event in Downpatrick where Mr Wells, then DUP Health Minister, told the audience he believed treatment to HIV patients should be stopped and that children of gay parents would be abused.
A court previously heard that Gardner alleged Mr Wells told those gathered that "he 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 in a family will be abused by their parents'."
Other allegations which transpired 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 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 had walked out of the meeting.
A transcript of what he actually said was obtained and that proved Mr Wells told the audience that "under no circumstances" would he ever support gay marriage.
He had said 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."
During police interviews Gardner admitted that she had not told the truth in her statement, confessing that she made it up "to get" Jim Wells.
She claimed that she had been subjected to cancer treatment but the court heard that when police asked her to provide evidence of her diagnosis and treatment she refused.
The court heard an estimated 10 hours of police man hours had been wasted investigating Gardner's false claims.