Jim Wells: Woman sentenced for wasting police time
A Dungannon woman has been sentenced to three months in jail after pleading guilty to making false statements to police about a DUP Assembly member.
Dorothy Gardner had alleged she attended an April 2015 hustings event in Downpatrick, during which the issue of same-sex parenting was discussed.
Jim Wells made controversial remarks about same-sex relationships. He later resigned as health minister.
A judge released Gardner on her own bail of £250 pending appeal.
Ms Gardner, of Killycanavan Road, made a formal complaint to police after the hustings which included a statement claiming she had been at the event and heard the remarks.
The Downpatrick Court heard that a detective investigating the complaint realised that the 49-year-old's account of the event did not add up.
She claimed she was with a group of protestors, wearing tops with the inscription "I'm proud to be gay" on the front and "No politician will tell me who to love" on the back.
She claimed she had heckled Mr Wells and in response, the DUP's Nelson McCausland and Gregory Campbell had laughed at her.
Gardner also claimed to police she had video footage supporting her story.
The court heard that Mr McCausland and Mr Campbell were not at the event and that no video footage was produced by Gardner. Nor did CCTV footage demonstrate any such protest group attended.
Gardner also claimed to be suffering from cancer, but the court was told that no evidence had been provided and she had not attended a probation appointment to discuss a pre-sentence report.
The court was also told that Ms Gardner had claimed to be at the home of a lesbian couple in Rathfriland when Jim Wells came to the door canvassing.
Police investigations revealed that this was also not true and that the couple in question had no knowledge of Ms Gardner.
The court heard that Ms Gardner admitted she had wanted to "get Jim Wells".
The judge said that fabricating statements attacked the very heart of due process.
The judge said the false statement made by Ms Gardner not only wasted police time but could impact on legitimate complaints from the LGBT community.
Speaking outside court, Mr Wells said he felt "totally vindicated" by the sentence.
"My political career was destroyed as a result of totally false allegations made against me," he said.
"I was forced to resign as health minister and over the last 16 months, I have been subjected to a torrent of abuse based on these false allegations.
"If it had not been for the diligence of a senior PSNI detective, I could have faced a very serious charge, and I am very grateful to him for his work on this case."