The former University of New England vice-chancellor and chief executive Brigid Heywood has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and offensive behaviour at Armidale local court.
Monday’s court mention resulted from an alleged incident at an International Women’s Day gathering at which Heywood appeared as a panellist.
During the 8 March event hosted by Armidale Regional Council at a local ex-services club, Heywood was alleged to have wiped her saliva on a teenager’s face and commented on her skin colour.
Heywood’s legal counsel appeared before magistrate Mark Richardson to plead not guilty on her behalf.
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On 1 August, Heywood was issued a court attendance notice outlining charges of common assault and offensive behaviour near a public place or school.
A statement issued by UNE chancellor James Harris on 5 August stated that she strenuously denied there was any truth to the allegations and would defend them.
Heywood resigned on the same day.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall had previously weighed in on whether Heywood should step aside until the conclusion of the trial.
The 64-year-old biological scientist was born in the English port city of Hull and had a distinguished academic and research career in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Tasmania, before taking up the UNE vice-chancellor’s position in 2019.
Heywood is currently listed as a member of the risk and audit committee of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, a statutory federal government body. Her 2020 appointment to the New South Wales Innovation and Productivity Council of the NSW Treasury was to last until 2023.
The next court date for Heywood is scheduled for 14 November.
The maximum penalty for common assault in NSW is two years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of $5,500.