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DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson could be kicked off the Privy Council and stripped of his knighthood if he is convicted of rape, sources say

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Former DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson could be stripped of his membership of the Privy Council and his knighthood if he is convicted of rape and sexual abuse, sources claim. 

The 61-year-old MP for Lagan Valley was arrested along with a 57-year-old woman on Thursday and charged by the PSNI that evening. 

Donaldson, who strongly denies the allegations, was spotted boarding a flight from Belfast on Friday morning, hours before details of his resignation as leader of the DUP was revealed. 

The veteran MP is facing one count of rape, one count of gross indecency and several counts of indecent assault. 

Ex DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson could be stripped of his knighthood and membership of the Privy Council by King Charles if he is convicted of rape and sex abuse charges

Ex DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson could be stripped of his knighthood and membership of the Privy Council by King Charles if he is convicted of rape and sex abuse charges

Donaldson, 61, pictured in Stormont on February 3 announcing the return of power sharing to Northern Ireland has been replaced on an interim basis by his deputy Gavin Robinson, pictured behind Donaldson

Donaldson, 61, pictured in Stormont on February 3 announcing the return of power sharing to Northern Ireland has been replaced on an interim basis by his deputy Gavin Robinson, pictured behind Donaldson

Labour MP Jess Phillips said Donaldson should be banned from the parliamentary estate pending the outcome of his criminal trial

Labour MP Jess Phillips said Donaldson should be banned from the parliamentary estate pending the outcome of his criminal trial

The 57-year-old woman arrested as part of the same investigation has been charged with aiding and abetting additional offences. 

Donaldson will appear before a court in Newry, Co Down on April 24. 

The MP is believed to be at his flat in London having left Belfast early on Saturday morning. 

The allegations, which he strongly deny, are described as being ‘historic’.  

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office, who handle media relations for the Privy Council said they could not comment on individual cases. 

Donaldson was appointed to the Privy Council in 2007.  

However, there are long-established protocols for removing members of the Privy Council in the event of a criminal conviction. 

A source told MailOnline: ‘The historical precedent for the enforced removal of a member of the Privy Council is very high. 

‘In the event of a conviction, it is open to the Prime Minister to advise His Majesty to seek the removal via formal submission. The Privy Council would consider the submission and remove the member. 

Donaldson was replaced by his number two on an interim basis after the DUP held emergency meetings resulting from their former leader's shock resignation

Donaldson was replaced by his number two on an interim basis after the DUP held emergency meetings resulting from their former leader’s shock resignation

‘It is also open to a member to volunteer to leave the Privy Council.’ 

Membership of the Privy Council is normally for life. 

The Privy Council can also advise the monarch to strip recipients of honours such as knighthoods of their rewards 

Irish republican Sir Roger Casement was stripped of his knighthood – a process known as ‘degradation’ following his attempt to land a boatload of German rifles on the south west coast of Ireland ahead of the 1916 Easter Rising. 

Fred Goodwin, former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland had his knighthood taken following the collapse of his bank which required a £45bn taxpayer bailout in 2008. 

Former spy Anthony Blunt lost his knighthood in 1979 after he was uncovered as a Russian agent. 

Robert Mugabwe had his honorary knighthood taken away in 2008, while Benito Mussolini lost his in 1940.  

Since 1692 just 20 members of Privy Council have been removed from their post. Seven of those were later restored. 

John Profumo, Secretary for State for War, stood down from the Privy Council in 1963 after he gave a false statement in Parliament over his relationship with Christine Keeler. 

Former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken stood down in June 1997 after police began investigating him for perjury. 

Former Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne asked to be removed after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice in 2013. 

Nine months later ex Labour MP Denis MacShane quit over the parliamentary expenses scandal in 2013. 

Ahead of his trial, the DUP has assured Sir Lindsey Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons that their former leader will remain away from the parliamentary estate. 

In December 2023, the House of Commons Commission published proposals for ‘a risk-based exclusion policy for Members who have been accused of violent or sexual offences’. 

The proposals require the Government to bring forward a motion which will be voted on by members of the House. 

A spokesperson for the House of Commons told MailOnline: ‘We are aware of the announcement by the Police, but will not be commenting on individual cases.’

Donaldson will continue as MP for Lagan Valley although the DUP has assured House of Commons speaker Lindsey Hoyle that their former leader will not attend Westminster until the criminal proceedings have been resolved

Donaldson will continue as MP for Lagan Valley although the DUP has assured House of Commons speaker Lindsey Hoyle that their former leader will not attend Westminster until the criminal proceedings have been resolved

However, Labour MP Jess Philips said on the micro-blogging site formerly known as twitter: ‘To be clear on the Jeffrey Donaldson arrests. It will still be completely legitimate for Donaldson to come to Westminster thanks to the delay and watering down of proposed safeguarding changes. The reason it was watered down has more to do with Tory leadership races than safety.’ 

She added: ‘So perfectly legitimate for a man accused of rape to jump in a lift completely alone with me or my staff.’  

The Lagan Valley MP has been suspended from the DUP pending the outcome of the judicial process, and East Belfast MP and deputy leader Gavin Robinson has been appointed interim party leader.

The DUP said it had received the letter from Sir Jeffrey saying he had been charged with allegations of a historical nature and that he would be stepping down as leader.

In a statement, the DUP said: ‘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.’

Mr Robinson said: ‘It has been a devastating revelation and has caused tremendous shock not just for myself personally or my colleagues within the DUP, but for the community right across Northern Ireland.

‘It came as a great shock. But we are a party and individuals that believe in justice, we have faith in our criminal justice system.’

Mr Robinson said the party became aware of the allegations ‘very late’ on Thursday.

He said: ‘So, in the coming days and months I think it is important none of us say anything or act in any way that would seek to prejudice what is now an ongoing criminal investigation.’

Sir Jeffrey’s membership of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland has also been suspended.

A spokesman for the organisation said: ‘Jeffrey Donaldson’s membership has been suspended, in accordance with the rules of the Loyal Orange Institution, pending the outcome of the legal process.’

 Mr Donaldson’s website and social media accounts, including X, Facebook and Instagram, were deleted ahead of yesterday’s bombshell announcement.

The shock announcement comes just weeks after Sir Jeffrey made the decision to return the party to powersharing in Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey’s leadership saw him steer the party’s two-year boycott of Northern Ireland’s political institutions, in protest at post-Brexit trading arrangements.

After protracted negotiations, the DUP agreed to return to Stormont in February after the agreement of a new deal and a series of assurances around Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the United Kingdom.

Sir Jeffrey, who has had an almost 40-year career in politics, became DUP leader in July 2021.

His career started with the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and in 1985, aged 22, he was the youngest person to be elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

His relationship with former UUP leader David Trimble deteriorated when he led a walkout of the 1998 peace talks, after opposing the early release of republican and loyalist prisoners.

He left the party and joined the DUP in January 2004.

He was recognised by the Queen in her 2016 Birthday Honours and was given a knighthood.



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