Northern Ireland news

DUP councillor convicted of sexually assaulting nursing colleague given 220 hours community service

DUP councillor Ian Stevenson was found guilty of sexually assaulting a nursing colleague

A DUP councillor convicted of sexually assaulting a nursing colleague has been given 220 hours community service.

Ian Stevenson was also put on the sex offenders register for five years after being found guilty of deliberately squeezing the woman's breast at a Co Antrim care home.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard the 49-year-old former mayor of Ballymoney could now be at risk of losing both his job and his home.

Stevenson, who maintains his innocence and is set to appeal the conviction, was told today he is entitled to limited credit for contesting allegations he carried the assault and then joked he would "grope anything".

District Judge Amanda Henderson said: "The injured party had to come to court and was clearly extremely distressed in her testimony".

His trial heard he allegedly asked for a hug while talking to the woman on a corridor in April 2017.

She claimed that after raising her arms Stevenson, of Headlands Avenue in Ballymoney, grabbed her breast.

During the hearing she described responding by pushing him away and telling him "no", adding that the encounter left her shocked and frightened.

"He just basically tried to laugh it off and made the joke 'You know me, I would grope anything... well, not anything'," the woman claimed.

Defence counsel argued it was unbelievable a public figure and nurse of 22 years standing would carry out the alleged act in the middle of a care home.

It emerged in court that Stevenson has since been dismissed from his nursing position - an action which is to be challenged at a tribunal.

A representative on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, he has also been suspended by the DUP pending the outcome of the case.

He claimed it was the woman who offered him a hug when he told her he was going to lay a wreath on a friend's grave and insisted he did not grab or touch her breast.

During sentencing today, a defence barrister confirmed Stevenson continues to protest his innocence and has secured employment in another nursing area.

She described him as a man of "impeccable character with high standing in the community".

The court was told Stevenson still has the full support of his family, including his elderly parents who rely on him.

"Due to working as a councillor and a nurse his employment will be in jeopardy," his barrister added.

"He's likely to lose his home if he's unable to make his mortgage payments."

Ruling out any custodial sentence, Judge Henderson instead ordered him to serve 220 hours community service. She also directed he must comply with notification requirements under sexual offence legislation for a period of five years.

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