THE head of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Gary Thompson appeared in court on Thursday charged with indecently assaulting a female.
A defence solicitor told Ballymena Magistrates Court Gary Thompson (51), of Rogan Wood in Newtownabbey, “strenuously denies” the allegations.
Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Gary Thompson is accused of nine charges of indecently assaulting one female on dates in 2006.
He was in the dock for a Preliminary Enquiry – the legal step to send a case to the Crown Court.
A court clerk read out the first charge and said there were eight other similar charges.
The defendant confirmed he did not object to the holding of a Preliminary Enquiry.
A prosecution lawyer submitted that on the basis of the papers before the court there was a case to answer.
Defence solicitor Derwin Harvey said he had no contrary submissions.
The defendant confirmed he was aware of the charges and when asked by the court clerk if he wished to say anything in relation to the charges he replied: “Not at this stage”.
Mr Harvey told the court the defendant “strenuously denies the charges”.
The defendant was released on continuing £750 bail and Deputy District Judge Noel Dunlop sent the case to Antrim Crown Court for arraingment in early January.
No further details were given to the court.
Gary Thompson was given a ‘precautionary suspension’ as Chief Fire & Rescue Officer in December 2018.
In a statement at the time the Fire Service said: “Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) confirms that the Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Mr Gary Thompson, has been placed on precautionary suspension with effect from 10th December 2018. Precautionary suspension is a neutral action in line with NIFRS policies and procedures. NIFRS is not in a position to make any further comment at this time.”
Following Thursday’s court appearance, the Fire Service was asked if they wished to comment and a response was awaited.
Mr Thompson has links to the social justice charity ‘Extern’.
A spokeswoman for ‘Extern’ said on Thursday afternoon: “Extern can confirm that a Board Member has been placed on precautionary suspension. This precautionary suspension is without prejudice of any outcome and is in line with Extern’s policies and procedures.”