AN OUTGOING DUP representative has defended signing nomination papers for a sex assault councillor seeking re-election.
Alderman Frank Campbell said it was “up to the public to decide” if they wanted shamed Ian Stevenson to retain his Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council seat after backing him to run.
Mr Stevenson, convicted of groping a nursing colleague last year, is set to contest May’s local government elections as an independent candidate.
He has yet to officially announce his intention but it can be revealed he has already sought and acquired the two mandatory signatories backing his intention to run.
One of those is his former DUP colleague and current serving councillor Frank Campbell, who is listed as Stevenson’s main ‘proposer’ on electoral documents.
The former Ballymoney mayor, who will not contest the local elections for the first time in 27 years this year, last week confirmed he’d nominated the convicted sex offender to run.
“I gave him a proposal because everyone nowadays will decide for themselves if he’s capable of the work,” he told the Sunday World.
“It’s up to everyone individually and all I did was give him the opportunity to try and if that opportunity doesn’t work I don’t think it’s cost anything.
“I have seen the work Ian has done and he has worked hard.”
When questioned on whether an elected representative with a conviction for a sex crime should be maintaining their seat alderman Campbell replied: “There are MLAs and MPs who have convictions and they aren’t standing down so why should Ian?”
Asked on whether his party, which suspended Stevenson last year, was aware of the move, he added: “I have actually in the past supported Ian in (council) notices of motion after the (criminal) case, the DUP was aware of it and I was not contacted.
“I have actually in the past supported Ian in (council) notices of motion after the (criminal) case, the DUP was aware of it and I was not contacted.
“They seemed happy enough.”
The Sunday World also attempted to contact the second signatory backing Mr Stevenson’s intention to run in May’s elections.
The woman, a retired civil servant who is heavily involved in the Ballymoney community, could not be reached for comment.
She is understood to be a supporter of the disgraced representative who has worked alongside her on a number of community projects.
The signatures of eight other ‘electors’ backing Stevenson’s official nomination are also required before he can officially lodge the documents to the electoral commission by April 9.
Former Ballymoney mayor Ian Stevenson
The former Ballymoney mayor is currently the subject of a local government watchdog investigation following his conviction for sexual assault in November last year.
The 49 year-old was found guilty at Belfast Magistrates Court of groping a female nursing colleague at a Co Antrim care home in April 2017.
The court heard at the time how the victim was initiallyapproachedby Stevenson, the facility’s registered nurse, after she started a night shift and he was clocking off.
After chatting for a while the nursing assistant was called to help a resident and Stevenson asked her for a hug. It was at this point he sexually assaulted her.
Describing how she lifted her hands up to hug the 49 year-old, the victim told the court: “Hethen put his hand under my arm and groped my left breast….he actually squeezed when he did it.” “He then put his hand under my arm and groped my left breast….he actually squeezed when he did it.” The woman – described as “credible” by judge Henderson – said she pushed him away and told him “no”.
He then responded: “Youknow me, I would grope anything… well, not anything”.
It transpired during the contest hearing that the elected representative had been dismissed by his employment over the incident. Despite denying the allegations, Stevenson was found guilty by a judge wholatersentenced him to 220 hours community service. He is also required to sign the sex offender’s register for five years. Since the court ruling Stevenson has refused to resign from his post despite facing calls to step aside. Last month Sinn Fein called his position and publicly called on the councillor to stand down.
The DUP yesterday confirmed Mr Stevenson was still suspended from the party.