Former councillor Ian Stevenson (Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council) has been disqualified from being a councillor until 30 April 2025 following an Adjudication Hearing held on 28 June.
Acting Commissioner Ms Katrin Shaw found that Mr Stevenson had breached Paragraph 4.2 of the Local Government Code of Conduct (the Code) following his conviction in December 2018 for sexual assault.
Paragraph 4.2 states that councillors must not bring their position as a councillor, or their council, into disrepute.
Following his conviction he was sentenced to 220 hours of community service and was placed on the Sex Offenders Register for a period of 5 years.
An investigation was held into Mr Stevenson’s actions after a complaint was made to the Local Government Ethical Standards Directorate.
He denied that he had failed to comply with the Code and continued to deny the basis of his conviction.
At the Hearing held on 28 June, the Acting Commissioner said that in considering the sanction she had consulted the Sanctions Guidance document and submissions from both parties.
She noted a number of mitigating factors in the former councillor’s favour, including his previous good service and compliance with the Code and the personal and reputational impact on him.
The Acting Commissioner, however, stated the serious nature of the conviction and the aggravating factors substantially outweighed the mitigating factors.
In considering the level of sanction to apply, she stated it was important to uphold public confidence in local democracy and the ethical standards regime. She concluded that by his actions the former councillor had brought the role of councillor and the council into disrepute and is likely to have diminished public confidence in both.
Given the seriousness of Mr Stephenson’s conduct, she thought that disqualification for a period of 4 years was a proportionate and appropriate sanction. Taking into account that the former councillor had been subject to an interim suspension and other mitigating factors, the period of disqualification was determined to run for 3 years 10 months until 30 April 2025.
The disqualification began on 28 June 2021.