Man arrested after officer at Sir Jeffrey Donaldson court spat at

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
There was a large police presence as Sir Jeffrey Donaldson attended court [PA Media]

A 37-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of spitting at a police officer who was involved in getting Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in and out of Newry Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

The man, a bystander, was detained on suspicion of assault.

He has now been released pending further inquiries.

Police also said they were investigating speculation online about the identity of the alleged victims in the case involving Sir Jeffrey.

Officers warned of the serious potential impact on proceedings.

It is illegal to share the identity of any alleged victim of sexual offences.

Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey, who is 61, has been charged with rape and 10 other historical sex offences.

His wife, 58-year-old Lady Eleanor Donaldson, is a co-accused who faces four charges related to alleged aiding and abetting.

'Pushing and shoving'

There were some chaotic scenes outside the courthouse as officers had to clear the Sir Jeffrey's way in and out of the building.

Ch Supt Meryn Seffen said officers deserved to be treated with respect.

"There was a large media presence, alongside a smaller number of members of the public, who at times, were pushing and shoving our officers to get closer to the defendants," he said.

"We appreciate the high profile nature of this case but always ask that our officers, who are on the ground to keep people safe, are treated with respect.

"We would also again remind all members of the public that speculation about the identity of victims or the circumstances surrounding this case is illegal and we are actively investigating those who are perpetrating this online and deciding on the most appropriate action to take.

"This type of speculation along with defamatory comments made about the defendants could have a seriously negative impact on criminal justice proceedings."

'Impeded or prejudice proceedings'

The attorney general also issued a statement about the potential effect "social media posting of recordings or commentary" could have on jury members.

"Even if a member of the public did not intend to interfere with a court case, they can be found in contempt of court if something they publish creates a substantial risk that the course of justice in the criminal proceedings would be seriously impeded or prejudiced," Dame Brenda King said.

"Users of social media should therefore take great care before posting or re-posting clips or commentary and may wish to delete material at this point rather than risk proceedings being brought against them."

A sentence of up to two years imprisonment can be imposed for anyone found in contempt of court.