Belfast Telegraph

DUP councillor accused of sexual assault told colleague he would 'grope anything', court told

By Alan Erwin

A DUP councillor charged with sexually assaulting a nursing colleague allegedly told her he would "grope anything", a court heard on Thursday.

Ian Stevenson is accused of squeezing the woman's breast after asking for a hug at a care home in Co Antrim.

The 49-year-old former mayor of Ballymoney categorically denies any wrongdoing over the encounter in April 2017.

It also emerged that he has since been dismissed from his nursing post.

The alleged victim told Belfast Magistrates' Court he had requested a hug while they were talking on a corridor on the night in question.

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

"He actually squeezed when he did it," the woman said.

She allegedly responded 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 court heard the woman later sent Mr Stevenson a Facebook message, expressing her "disgust" at what allegedly happened.

Asked by Jennifer Lindsay, prosecuting, how the incident has affected her, she replied: "It makes me nervous that somebody in that position could take such an advantage."

But defence counsel put it to her that the allegations were inconsistent and false.

"It's completely unbelievable that Mr Stevenson, a councillor, a public figure, a nurse of 22 years standing, would do this in the middle of a care home when somebody could just walk round the corner," the barrister said.

The defendant, a representative on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, has reportedly 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 he was going to lay a wreath on a friend's grave.

"It was given to me freely, I didn't ask for it," he insisted.

"I didn't think I would end up in a court of law on account of a hug."

At no point did he grab or touch her breast, Mr Stevenson told the court.

Questioned about his alleged comments to the woman, he said: "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."

Under cross-examination, however, the prosecution claimed he had overstepped the boundaries by grabbing her breast.

"You took a chance with this lady and thought she will not do anything about it, she will be alright," Mrs Lindsay contended.

Mr Stevenson responded: "It's not my nature, it's not me."

He disclosed during the hearing that he has since been dismissed from his nursing home position - an action which is to be challenged at a tribunal.

Reserving judgment on the sexual assault charge, Mrs Henderson said she wanted time to consider all evidence.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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