Belfast Telegraph

Police quiz woman over the anti-gay claims that forced Jim Wells to quit post

By Lisa Smyth

Police have questioned a woman suspected of perverting the course of justice after Jim Wells was accused of making homophobic remarks, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

A 48-year-old woman was interviewed at Dungannon police station earlier this week in connection with allegations made about the former health minister.

The DUP MLA is currently at the centre of a police probe after he was accused of making anti-gay comments at a hustings event in Downpatrick on April 23 this year.

It is understood police are investigating the possibility that the woman lied about being present when Mr Wells was alleged to have made the remarks.

It is understood a decision on whether to prosecute Mr Wells over the allegations is to be made imminently.

Mr Wells, whose wife of 32 years suffered a series of strokes at the start of the year, was forced to stand down from his position as health minister as a result of the allegations.

He has since claimed he was "hung out to dry" over something he never said.

A PSNI spokeswoman last night said: "A 48-year-old woman voluntarily attended Dungannon police station on Wednesday, October 7, by pre-arranged appointment in relation to suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

"This is in connection with a number of complaints from members of the public with regards to an incident on Thursday, April 23, in Downpatrick.

"A report will be forwarded to the PPS in due course."

The allegations against Mr Wells made headlines around the world. Even the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg weighed into the controversy and said the "mask has slipped" after Mr Wells was accused of making the anti-gay remarks.

However, the senior DUP man, who was questioned by detectives for several hours over the comments, has said police analysis of an alleged recording of the event was "doctored".

He said this has given a misleading impression of what was said at the time.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "The full transcript shows that I did say I was opposed to gay marriage, which I am, but then I go on to make the argument that when marriages break up - in either a heterosexual or homosexual relationship - the children can be used in a very nasty and vicious way.

"I have seen this myself repeatedly, in heterosexual marriages, where the children become bargaining chips, and are used in a nasty way."

The South Down MLA said he had been told by police that they accept he did not make the homophobic remarks which led to his resignation in April.

"Police have analysed the tape and confirmed to me that it was contrived.

"For me it was a 'lightbulb' moment. I had always doubted that I could say something that I don't actually believe."

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