the navy lark Judge rules on millionaire sex offender Charles Howeson’s release

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Judge rules on millionaire sex offender Charles Howeson’s release

The former Royal Navy commander, Plymouth charity director and business leader was jailed for ‘isolating’ and ‘groping’ young men

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The fall from grace of Plymouth businessman Charles Howeson was complete this morning as judges condemned him to serve his sex abuse sentence.

The former Royal Navy commander, charity director and business leader was jailed in June for “isolating” and “groping” eight young men.

He offended over a decade during the 1980s and 1990s, attacking the men – aged 20 to 33 – in strikingly similar ways.

But the 69-year-old has always insisted that the offences did not happen and the allegations are part of a conspiracy against him in “gossipy” Plymouth.

His case reached court in London today as he appealed against his convictions amid harsh criticisms of the way his trial proceeded.

Howeson claimed the trial was “unfair”, but in a two-hour hearing at the Court of Appeal, three judges upheld the verdicts.

“We are left with no real doubt that the verdicts are safe,” said Lord Justice Hickinbottom.

“On the evidence, we consider the verdicts were unsurprising.”

He was hiding a darker side

The court heard Howeson served in the Navy for more than two decades, achieving the rank of commander, before an equally successful civilian life.

He was a director of the Plymouth Area Groundwork Trust, founded the Plymouth Drake Centre and was an honorary vice-president of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, as well as taking roles in numerous companies.

During his trial, evidence was heard that the city’s success in recent years might not have been possible without Howeson, of Craigie Drive, Stonehouse.

Charles Howeson's police mugshot after his arrest
Charles Howeson’s police mugshot after his arrest (Image: Devon & Cornwall Police)

However, behind a respectable public veneer, he was hiding a darker side to his character, which emerged when allegations of his past came to light.

Over a decade, he had used his position of authority or dominance in various contexts to isolate young men in dark places, the judge said.

He took advantage of them when they were vulnerable, often groping their genitals on the pretext of lifting them or while walking behind.

He was found guilty after a six-week trial at Bristol Crown Court last December of 10 indecent assaults against eight victims and jailed for seven-and-a-half years.

Appealing today, his barrister Daniel Janner QC claimed that the way the trial judge summed up the case to the jury was unfair to Howeson.

The summing up lasted four days and was a “mish mash muddle” of fact, legal directions and comment by the judge, he argued.

The length of the speech may have led to jurors “switching off” or they may have been “distracted” from the actual issues they had to decide.

Rejecting the appeal, Lord Justice Hickinbottom accepted that the judge’s summing up could have been better, but said the resulting verdicts were not “unsafe”.

EMMA HOWESON GIVES STATEMENT OUTSIDE COURT

“Looking at the summing up as a whole, despite its defects, it adequately directed the jury as to their task,” he said.

“We accept his recitation of the evidence may have been too long, but we don’t consider that it would have deflected the jury from their consideration of the issues.

“We consider that, when the summing up is looked at as a whole, Howeson’s case was set out and not undermined by the judge’s comments to any significant degree.”

Men who were abused years apart and in completely different contexts had told stories which were strikingly similar about Howeson’s methods, he added.

And there was no evidence of any collusion between them.

Mr Janner also challenged the length of Howeson’s sentence, which he described as “far too long”.

‘He engaged in a course of conduct over more than 10 years’

He had otherwise lived a law-abiding life, doing much for his community, and is now suffering with prostate cancer, he said.

But the appeal judge, sitting with Mr Justice Jeremy Baker and Judge Deborah Taylor, rejected the sentence appeal.

“These were not the most serious assaults – bar one, they were all groping outside clothing, and bar one, they were not sustained,” he said.

“However, he engaged in a course of conduct over more than 10 years, involving eight victims in different contexts, but over all of whom he had a significant position of authority.

Emma Howeson is standing by her husband, who is on trial at Bristol Crown Court
Emma Howeson has stood by her husband throughout the ordeal (Image: SWNS)

“His victims were far lower down the order. The victims were, to that extent, vulnerable.

“It was a stiff sentence, but we have concluded that, in this set of circumstances, it was not manifestly excessive.”

https://get.convrse.media/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.plymouthherald.co.uk%2Fnews%2Fplymouth-news%2Fjudge-rules-millionaire-sex-offender-2150746&cre=bottom&cip=81Howeson, in a blue and white striped open-neck shirt, appeared via a video link from HMP Dartmoor to hear his appeal dismissed.

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