DUP man suspended from council after sexual assault conviction
DUP councillor Ian Stevenson has been suspended from his role after being convicted of sexually assaulting a female work colleague.
Causeway Coast and Glens councillor Stevenson had already been suspended by the DUP after his conviction in November 2018. He maintains he is innocent and is appealing his sentence. He says he expects the conviction to be overturned.
On Thursday, the Acting Local Government Commissioner for Standards ruled that he should be suspended until May 6, the remainder of his term in office.
It is understood the 48-year-old former Mayor plans to run for re-election as an independent candidate.
Stevenson was judged to have breached the Local Government Code of Conduct as a result of his conviction.
The Chief Executive of Causeway Coast and Glens Council David Jackson provided a statement saying that he believed Stevenson's conduct had brought "both his position as a councillor and the council into disrepute".
Ms Michaela McAleer, representing the Deputy Commissioner, stated that "the matter was about public confidence and that such confidence is inextricably linked with disrepute".
She believed "that there would be a further loss of confidence if the councillor remained in office".
Stevenson submitted no evidence to the investigation and expressed a belief that "the proceedings should not continue as he expected his conviction to be overturned an appeal".
The Acting Commissioner stated that "the potential outcome of any appeal is not material to a decision on interim measures, which must be taken in accordance with the law".
After considering the submissions, the Investigation Report, and the Commissioner’s Guidance to the Code, he was satisfied that "there was prima facie evidence of a breach of the Code".
He also found that Stevenson's actions were "likely to have caused reputational damage to the council".
In considering a sanction, the Acting Commissioner accepted the Deputy Commissioner’s belief that a conviction for sexual assault "is likely to lead to loss of confidence if the councillor were to continue in public" office.
It was deemed an interim suspension was therefore "necessary to preserve public confidence".
The sanction is to have effect from Tuesday 19 March 2019 and a full Adjudication Hearing is to take place before the Commissioner at a future date.
Stevenson may appeal to the High Court against the decision. He maintains his innocence and is set to appeal his sexual assault conviction.
Belfast Telegraph Digital