A Dungannon woman who maliciously lied to police attributing homophobic remarks to then health minister Jim Wells, has been jailed for three months.
The sentence came after Dorothy Gardner,from Killycanavan Road, pleaded guilty to wasting police time by making false statements about the MLA.
She had previously lodged claims against Mr Wells after he spoke at a Westminster election hustings event in Downpatrick on April 23, 2015. The allegations made concerned remarks Mr Wells was said to have made about gay couples and their ability to bring up children.
He was subsequently forced to resign, after Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said his position as health minister was “no longer tenable”.
“My reputation and political career were destroyed by a series of totally false reports of what I said at that hustings meeting,” said Mr Wells. “As a result of these I was forced to resign as health minister and suffered months of online abuse.”
Mr Wells added that the full transcript and video of his speech, along with notes from “five experienced reporters who covered the event” clearly confirmed he hadn’t made the alleged remarks.
Jailing a shocked looking 49-year-old Dorothy Gardner at Downpatrick Magistrates Court, Deputy District Judge Neil Rafferty said he had “thought long and hard” whether he could suspend the jail term but that “because of the aggravating features that I have outlined, I do not think it would be appropriate in this case to suspend the sentence.”
Moments later however, following an application by defence barrister Noel Dillon, the judge released Gardner on her own bail of £250 pending an appeal against the jail sentence.
Speaking outside the court, South Down MLA Mr Wells said he had no sympathy for the mother-of-one who has made unsubstantiated claims she suffers from cancer.