Community service for DUP councillor convicted of sexually assaulting 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 squeezed the woman's breast at a care home in Co Antrim.
Belfast Magistrates' Court heard the 49-year-old nurse and former mayor of Ballymoney could now be at risk of losing both his job and his home.
Stevenson maintains his innocence and is set to appeal the conviction.
But he was told that he is entitled to limited credit for contesting allegations he carried out the assault and then joked that 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.
"He actually squeezed when he did it," the woman said in her evidence.
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.
The court was told she later sent Stevenson a Facebook message, expressing her "disgust" at what allegedly happened.
Asked how the incident has affected her, she replied: "It makes me nervous that somebody in that position could take such an advantage."
With Stevenson emphatically denying the sexual assault charge, it was put it to the woman that her allegations were inconsistent and false.
Defence counsel argued it was unbelievable that 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.
The defendant, a representative on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, 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.
At no point did he grab or touch her breast, he insisted.
Questioned about his alleged comments, he told the court: "Anybody that knows me, anybody in the political sphere, knows that I have never cursed in my life, which might seem a bit incredible, and I certainly would not say anything like that."
Following his conviction he returned to court today to be sentenced.
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".
Counsel said: "Whilst he does deny the offence, he has very clear views why that type of behaviour would be wrong."
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 that he must comply with notification requirements under sexual offence legislation for a period of five years.
Stevenson's appeal against conviction is expected to be heard early next year.
Belfast Telegraph Digital