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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 October 2006, 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK
Former mayor attacks photographer
Dessie Stewart
Dessie Stewart arriving at the courthouse
A former DUP mayor of Coleraine has attacked a press photographer outside a courthouse in County Antrim.

Dessie Stewart admitted electoral fraud during the 2005 elections and is to be sentenced at Antrim Crown Court.

When Stewart arrived at the court he threw a punch at Press Association photographer Niall Carson.

Mr Carson said he did not know why he was singled out. "He lunged at me and when I turned to walk away he punched me on the back of the head," he said.

"Nothing was said. There was no exchange between us, there were other photographers standing as close as I was to him. I didn't think I provoked him in any way."

BBC political correspondent Gareth Gordon was outside the court and said Stewart attacked Mr Carson "without warning".

"Luckily he managed to turn his head on time and the blow struck him on the back of his neck," he said.

He said there was some pushing and Stewart then went into the court.

Police have said they are investigating the incident.

Stewart, who has already resigned from Coleraine Council, has also left the DUP.

Photographer Niall Carson
Mr Carson was attacked by Stewart as he tried to take his photograph

In September, Stewart admitted four counts of pretending to be someone else in order to cast postal votes, and two of fraudulently stopping free exercise of a proxy vote.

The case was adjourned then for pre-sentence reports.

However, at Antrim court on Tuesday, sentencing was put back until 17 November because of what the judge said were outstanding factual issues which needed to be resolved.

The charges against Stewart relate to the last general and local government elections, which were held on the same day in May 2005.

A councillor since 1989, Stewart was re-elected to council with 773 votes in The Skerries area which includes his home town of Portrush.

Gareth Gordon reports from Antrim Crown Court

DUP to probe ex-mayor vote fraud
27 Sep 06 |  Northern Ireland

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