Founder of Northern Ireland’s first LGBT+ rugby team faces charges of sexual abuse

Lily Wakefield May 1, 2022
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Belfast Azlans founder Kevin Bartlett faces nine charges. (Envato)

Kevin Bartlett, founder of Northern Ireland’s first LGBT+ rugby team, has been accused of sexual abuse by two alleged victims.

Bartlett faces two charges – sexually assaulting a male and causing him to engage in sexual activity without consent – in relation to a first alleged victim, and the crimes are alleged to have been carried out in December, 2020. When the charges were filed, he pleaded not guilty to both counts.

But on Wednesday (27 April) Antrim Court heard that a second alleged victim had come forward.

In this case, charges include five counts of sexual assault alleged to have taken place between February and June, 2020, meaning he is now facing a total of nine charges, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

A fresh indictment has now been drawn up, which includes all nine charges against Bartlett.

The 61-year-old is a sports massage therapist who founded the Belfast Azlans, Northern Ireland’s first LGBT+ rugby team.

He is also an athlete himself, having competed in athletics, badminton and rugby, and brought home a gold medal from the Gay Games in Vancouver in 1990.

The sports enthusiast has advocated for greater acceptance of LGBT+ people in sports, and told the BBC in a 2020 interview: “I’ve come across homophobic comments.

“It’s not that long ago we’ve heard even famous people making homophobic comments, and I’ve heard them muttered in the background, I’ve heard them said actually blatantly on a pitch, so it happens.

“We’ve got a long way to go still before being gay or having any sort of difference in sexuality is completely accepted, but I think more than anything it’s just about feeling that you’re safe.”

Bartlett is not being held in custody, but his bail conditions stipulate that he cannot contact any of the alleged victims or witnesses for the prosecution, and that he is banned from “practicing as a personal masseuse at any time”.

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