Pension status of ex-fire chief on sex assault charges unclear

Northern Ireland’s fire and rescue service (NIFRS) has declined to state whether its former chief officer – who is facing indecent assault charges – will be able to avail of an early pension.

Saturday, 25th January 2020, 8:36 am
Former NIFRS chief officer Gary Thompson

Gary Thompson ‘retired’ two weeks ago while suspended over a number of sexual assault charges against a woman in 2006.

The 51-year-old, of Rogan Wood in Newtownabbey, had been serving with the NIFRS for 24 years when he was suspended in December 2018.

He had been appointed chief fire officer for Northern Ireland in November 2016.

At the time of his suspension from duty, NIFRS said it was a “precautionary” measure.

At the time of Mr Thompson’s suspension from duty, his employers said: “Gary Thompson, has been placed on precautionary suspension with effect from December 10, 2018.”

Mr Thompson appeared at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court on December 5, 2019 when his lawyer told the court that he “strenuously denies” the nine indecent assault charges.

A further court hearing is expected to take place next week, with a trial expected to take place in May.

On Thursday, a NIFRS spokeswoman confirmed to the News Letter that Mr Thompson was no longer in the employ of the fire service.

“Mr Gary Thompson, former Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, retired on 14 January 2020,” she said in a brief statement.

When asked if Mr Thompson would be able to avail of an early pension package on standing down – despite being suspended from duty – the spokeswoman said there would be “no further comment”.