A sports massage therapist is set to go on trial after denying two alleged sex offences.
Kevin Bartlett, who founded Northern Ireland’s first gay rugby team, appeared at Antrim Crown Court by videolink from his solicitor’s office last week to enter not guilty pleas to both counts against him.
The 60-year-old physio and well known sports figure, from Fountain Street in Antrim, is charged with sexually assaulting a male and causing the complainant to engage in sexual activity, namely oral sex, without consent.
Both alleged offences are said to have been committed on December 4 last year.
Defence counsel Michael Smyth told the court he estimated the trial would last “about a week.”
While Judge Patricia Smyth scheduled the trial to begin on February 21 next year, she advised the defence lawyer and prosecuting counsel Suzanne Gallagher that date “may be brought forward if another judge becomes available.”
Freeing Bartlett on continuing bail, the judge also extended legal aid to allow a senior QC to be instructed to defend the case.
As part of his bail conditions, Bartlett is barred from contacting the alleged victim or prosecution witnesses and is also prohibited from “practicing as a personal masseuse at any time.”
In 2016, sports massage therapist Bartlett founded the Belfast Azlans, a predominantly gay rugby team.
In a May 2020 interview he said the team’s player were a mix of bi, gay and straight and said Azlans core values were "sport, equality and inclusivity".
He has has long been involved in sport. He has competed, he has refereed, and he has carried an Olympic torch
"I've got a gold and silver medal from the Gay Games in Vancouver, I competed at the national championships and, more recently, as a 40-year-old, I competed in the national indoor championships in Kelvin Hall in Glasgow and came second in the hurdles; I've just been very lucky despite my diminutive size, I'm only 5ft 9in," he told the BBC.