A DUP councillor who provided a character reference for a former party colleague convicted of child sex offenses has said the correspondence contained "nothing of any importance".
Glyn Hanna, father of DUP MLA Diane Forsythe, wrote a character reference on behalf of fellow Newry, Mourne and Down councillor William Walker, who earlier this week was handed an enhanced combination order consisting of 100 hours of community service and three years of probation after he admitted two counts of attempted sexual communication with a child.
The one-time chair of Down District Council was also given a five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order and told to sign the sex offenders’ register for five years.
Downpatrick Crown Court was told the 60-year-old contacted what he believed were two teenage girls while posing as a 24-year-old man.
Judge Geoffrey Miller KC said there was “little doubt” that Walker “was motivated by perverse sexual desires in engaging in what was deliberate sexual grooming”.
The ex-councillor, formerly from Killyleagh but now with a current address on Palentine Road in Blackpool, set up a fake profile in the name of a ‘Peter Patterson’ and made contact with who he believed to be two teenage girls.
Mr Hanna's reference referred to his former party colleague's charitable and community work.
When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph and challenged on the appropriateness of writing a character reference for a sex offender, Mr Hanna said: “To be quite honest with you, I really don’t have any comment on it. I didn’t even know the court case was up.
Questioned further about why he would provide a statement for a convicted sex offender, he replied: “Anything I do is my own business, to be quite honest with you, so I think that question is not really relevant.
“To be quite honest with you, anybody who commits sex offences, to be quite honest with you, is simply wrong.”
Mr Hanna described the character reference as a “very short note” that contained “nothing of any importance”.
Addressing the judge’s claim that he must not have known Walker very well, he said: “Well, put it this way: I’ve been on the council now with him since 2014 — you know, through politics — and that’s really all.”