A former Devon council leader with a ‘dark side’ has been jailed for sexually assaulting three women.
Paul Greaves www.devonlive.com
Brian Greenslade, 72, a long-time leader of Devon County Council, assaulted two of his victims while on council business.
He lunged at one of the women, trying to kiss her, and put his hands down her trousers while she tried to push him away. He groped and fondled the other women’s breasts.
Greenslade, who led the council for 16 years and was also chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, denied any of the incidents ever happened and suggested one of the women had been ‘put up to it’ for political reasons.
But the jury agreed with the prosecution that he was ‘completely driven by ego and self importance’.
A judge sentencing him said he had abused his position of power and status when committing the offences.
Judge Timothy Rose said: “You’ve lived a long life in the service of your local community, particularly in the county of Devon.
“It seems to me throughout a large part of that period you had a dark side to you that you couldn’t control yourself in the presence of women.”
Greenslade, of Marwood, Barnstaple, was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault and one sexual assault dating back to the 1990s and mid 2000s.
He was jailed for 16 months.
The first incident happened when Greenslade was alone with the woman on council business. He suddenly lunged at her, grabbing both her arms and tried to kiss her. He then put his hand down the front of her trousers. She tried to resist and pull away but he was too strong for her.
The woman drove off in shock and disbelief at what had happened.
In a victim statement read to the court she said: “He was in a privileged position which he abused. I was completely embarrassed, ashamed and angry.
“I asked myself why he thought he could do that.
“This was a period when men had mistresses and men thought they could do as they liked.”
The second victim said she was assaulted by Greenslade during a function at the County Hall.
The leader of the council approached her and spoke to her before putting his arm around her and fondling her breast. She told him to move his hand or she would break his fingers.
She said she did not report the assault at the time because she thought she would get into trouble.
“It was a shocking experience and still shocks me now,” she said. It was only recently she had come to the conclusion that she had done nothing wrong and that Greenslade had acted in an outrageous way
The third incident happened in the 1990s when Greenslade was working as an accountant.
He stood behind a woman in an office and reached over to grab her breast. She could recall feeling sick and shaking while he just grinned. She said she had been terrified by the incident.
The process of coming back to court to relive the event in the witness box had given her a panic attack. She too had felt guilty for not reporting the incident sooner.
Miss Carolina Guiloff, in mitigation, said each of the incidents had been short lived and opportunistic. During his 36 years working for the council he had supported many women in their work and ‘clearly wasn’t a misogynist’.
He now suffered ill-health and shortly before his arrest in 2018 had suffered a minor heart attack. She said nothing could be gained by sending the pensioner to prison.
Judge Timothy Rose said one of the themes of the case was a powerful man who thought he could get away with sexual actions against women.
He added: “You were a powerful man, and you were the leader of the council and you were the one able to carry on with your life as if nothing had happened.”
He added: “You took advantage of situations you were in. One possible explanation is you came to believe nobody would complain about you and you would be able to get away with it.”
He said appeared Greenslade could not ‘control himself’ in the presence of women.
“You thought you could get away with it because nobody would go against you. You simply couldn’t control yourself. You took advantage of your character, your status and position and benefited from it over years until such time as your victims were able to come forward and I commend them for doing so. It took a great deal of bravery.”
The three women came forward with their allegations in 2018. It followed a public censure of Greenslade by the county council on the grounds of his harassment of members of staff.
After the sentencing a spokesman for Devon County Council said: “Our thoughts are with the survivors who suffered at the hands of Brian Greenslade.
“We are pleased that our actions in 2017 in response to complaints from members of council staff have helped to shine a light on the issue of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in the workplace and particularly when involving those in positions of authority.
“This council has very firm and clear expectations with regards to the conduct of all its staff and elected members including how councillors interact with the council’s employees.
“We will always take allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour and harassment very seriously and act swiftly.
“When allegations of this nature came to light in 2017, we acted quickly to thoroughly investigate them as part of our procedures, and the strongest possible sanctions on the former councillor were imposed. Most importantly all those staff impacted have been supported and continue to be so.”
Ann Hampshire of the CPS said: “Brian Greenslade was a respected and well-known public figure for many years but there was another side to his character.
“His position of authority made him confident that his victims would not complain or, even if they had, that they would not have been believed.
“All three women have said that his position was a factor in their decision not to report him at the time of the offences. I would like to thank them for coming forward when they did and for supporting this prosecution”.
The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Alison Hernandez has praised the victims for their tenacity.
Ms Hernandez said: “I would like to pay tribute to Brian Greenslade’s victims, who not only came forward to give evidence in the first place but who were then put through the ordeal of a trial that could have been avoided had he admitted his vile crimes in the first place.
“It is the victims’ tenacity and faith in the police and the criminal justice system that has persuaded a jury of his guilt and perhaps prevented yet more offences. I would urge all those affected by sexual offences to seek specialist help and advice from the wide range of services available, many of which are commissioned by my office.
“I hope this conviction sends a message to both victims and offenders that complaints will be taken seriously, investigations will be carried out and convictions can be secured.”
Free practical and emotional help and advice for crime victims, whether or not it has been reported to police, is available from the Devon and Cornwall Victim Care Unit on 01392 475900 or via Victim Support 24/7, on 0808 1689 111 or online at www.victimsupport.org.uk.