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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson steps down as DUP’s leader after being charged with historical sexual offences

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has stepped down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect after he was charged with historical sexual offences.

In a statement, the DUP said: “The party chairman has received a letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP confirming that he has been charged with allegations of an historical nature and indicating that he is stepping down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party with immediate effect.

“In accordance with the party rules, the party officers have suspended Mr Donaldson from membership, pending the outcome of a judicial process.

“The party officers have this morning unanimously appointed Mr Gavin Robinson MP as the interim party leader.”

Donaldson has led the party since 2021, but has been an MP since 1997.

Prior to joining the DUP, he was part of the Ulster Unionist Party’s delegation to negotiate the Good Friday Peace agreement.

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It comes after the Police Service of Northern Ireland said a man had been charged with non-recent sex offences.

A PSNI spokesman said: “Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland arrested and charged a 61-year-old man for non-recent sexual offences.

“A 57-year-old woman was also arrested and charged at the time for aiding and abetting additional offences.”

Both are due to appear before Newry Magistrates’ Court on 24 April.

Donaldson came to national prominence for his part in the confidence and supply agreement which propped up Theresa May’s government with DUP support following the 2017 election.

But the DUP ended up voting against Mrs May’s deal – and ultimately her government collapsed.

He became leader of the party in Westminster in 2019, and took overall control in 2021.

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