A DUP councillor convicted of sexually assaulting a female nursing colleague has been suspended from the council chamber for the remainder of his term of office.
Ian Stevenson, who sits on the Causeway Coast and Glens Council, was sentenced to 220 hours community service when he appeared in court in December 2018.
Cllr Stevenson was also 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.
He maintained his innocence and said he would launch an appeal.
On Friday, following an interim hearing, the Acting Local Government Commissioner for Standards Ian Gordon ruled that Cllr Stevenson would be suspended until his current term of office ends on May 6, 2019.
Mr Gordon found there was ‘prima facie evidence’ that the councillor had breached the code of conduct as a result of his court conviction.
Mr Stevenson can appeal against the suspension to the High Court pending a full adjudication hearing taking place before the commissioner at a future date.
A statement on the NI Local Government Commissioner for Standards website said: “Ms Michaela McAleer, representing the deputy commissioner [at the interim hearing], stated that the matter was about public confidence and that such confidence is inextricably linked with disrepute. It was her belief that there would be a further loss of confidence if the councillor remained in office.”
The statement added: “Councillor Stevenson was unwilling to make any submissions as to the potential breaches of the Code and possible sanction, expressing a belief that the proceedings should not continue as he expected his conviction to be overturned at an appeal.”