Wells ‘relieved’ by Dorothy Gardner’s guilty plea at court

Dorothy Elaine Dawn Gardner, 48, of Killycanavan Road, Dungannon
Dorothy Elaine Dawn Gardner, 48, of Killycanavan Road, Dungannon

Former health minister Jim Wells has said he won’t rest until those responsible for his downfall are brought to justice.

His comments come after former Cookstown woman, Dorothy Gardner, pleaded guilty (July 25) to wasting police time by making false statements about the MLA.

Gardner appeared before Downpatrick Magistrates Court this morning, where she made the guilty plea. 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.

“I am relieved by today’s guilty plea as it represents a first, but major, step towards my total vindication,” he said. “It is the first in a series of court cases which I have instigated in order to clear my name and restore my reputation. I now hope Ms Gardner and the other individuals who sought to destroy my reputation will publicly apologise for the huge damage they have caused me over the last 14 months.”

Following the allegations last year, Mr Wells said he was supported fully by the South Down Association of the DUP and the local electorate, who brought him back as their MLA in May. During that time Mr Wells’ wife was also seriously ill in hospital.

“I am very grateful to the small number of journalists who stood by me during this very difficult period of my life,” he said. “Their relentless pursuit of the truth about my case has been crucial in getting me to this stage. I will not rest until all those who were responsible for my downfall are brought to justice.”