Long-standing Barnstaple councillor and former Devon County Council leader Brian Greenslade allegedly groped three women, including one who he sexually assaulted during a reception at County Hall.

Greenslade is accused of assaulting two of the women while on county council business and the third while he was working as an accountant in the 1990s.

The 71-year-old is also a former head of the police authority and when he was arrested in December 2018, he asked the officers ‘Is the Chief Constable aware of this? I was chair of the police authority for many years’.

None of the three women complained to police at the time but all came forward after learning that Greenslade had been censured by the county council in 2018.

He is alleged to have put his hand down the trousers of one woman during a site visit in the mid 1990s, and fondled a breast of the second at an office in North Devon at around the same time.

North Devon Council leader Cllr Brian GreensladeNorth Devon Council leader Cllr Brian Greenslade

The final allegation is that he groped the breast of a guest at a County Hall reception in the mid 2000s, only stopping when she threatened to break his fingers.

Greenslade, of Longpiece, Marwood, near Barnstaple, denies two counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault.

William Mousley, QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Greenslade has been a district or county councillor for many years, is a former leader of the council and was a prominent local Liberal Democrat.

He has also held important posts with police and health authority and been a well known public figure in the region.

He said: “However, in 2018, it emerged that there was another side to his character and following an internal investigation, he was censured by Devon County Council. A censure is a public statement of disapproval of certain behaviour.

“That decision was reported in local media and online and led to three women to come forward with complaints of sexual assault. Two of the complaints related to the mid-1990s and the third to about a decade after that.

“All three said they were distressed by what he had done, they had not gone to the authorities until this had come out. They did not know each other and their reports were made entirely independently to each other.

“One happened in a work place and the other two while on council business. For all three, Greenslade was in a position of authority over each of them and no doubt he had power over them.

“The prosecution say he was confident they would not complain for fear of not being taken seriously or for fear of being criticised for speaking ill of a public figure.

“Perhaps the older assaults were committed at a time when some women might decide they did not want to make a fuss and were expected to just get on with it. By 2018, each felt confident enough to speak out.”

Mr Mousley said the first complaint arose from a site visit after which he approached the woman and lunged at her with both arms and tried to kiss her. He then sexually assaulted her.

She pulled away in shock and he tried to justify himself by saying she was ‘panting’ when walking around the site and saying he did not have a girlfriend.

The second woman said he visited the office where she was working late and put an arm round her as she was using a photocopier and touched her inappropriately. He was grinning but did not say anything.

The complainant was stunned, shocked and felt sick. She broke away and left as soon as she could. He had already gone without saying anything more to her.

She later told police she was very cross with herself for not having the courage to report the assault.

The final incident happened at a lunchtime reception at County Hall, when Greenslade started talking to the woman guest at a time when he was leader of the council.

Mr Mousley said: “She found his tone condescending, but much more seriously, he put his arm around her and she felt his hand on her breast.

“She looked at him and told him quietly and calmly to move his hand away immediately or she would break his fingers. He did so.”

She cried on her way home and was worried she may be in trouble because of that threat. She told her husband and they decided jointly not to take it further.

Greenslade was arrested at his home on December 17, 2018. He made no reply to the caution but then said: “Is the chief constable aware of this? I was chair of the police authority for many years.”

He went on to deny all the allegations, saying he could not even remember meeting the third complainant.

Judge Timothy Rose gave the jury panel a list of questions about whether they knew Greenslade or had any close connection with North Devon Council or Devon County Council.

The jurors were only selected if they answered no to all the questions.