Ex council leader Brian Greenslade jailed for 'sex pest' assaults

Brian Greenslade.

Brian Greenslade. - Credit: Archant

Disgraced former Devon County Council leader Brian Greenslade has been jailed and branded a ‘sex pest’ after being found guilty of sex assaults on three women. 

The 72-year-old left the three victims feeling violated, shocked and ashamed after he groped them in separate incidents in the 1990s and 2000s. 

He was jailed for 16 months by a judge who described him as a sex pest who had a dark side and used his position of power as cover for his crimes. 

All the assaults happened when he was already a prominent councillor and member of the police authority. 

The three victims were cowed into silence by his reputation until 2018 when they discovered that Greenslade had been censured by Devon County Council for harassing female staff at County Hall. 

When he was arrested later that year his response was to ask the police 'Is the Chief Constable aware of this? I was chair of the police authority for many years'. 

He was held in such high esteem that one of his victims was so worried about threatening to break his fingers that she did not complain about him ‘copping a feel’ of her breast. 

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One of the women, who he touched while visiting her office in Barnstaple, described him as a leering space invader. She did not report his assault because she knew he was on the police authority and feared for her job. 

Greenslade was a councillor on North Devon or Devon County Councils from 1985 until he stood down last month and was leader of the county council for 16 years. 

He denied all the allegations and claimed he was the victim of a political conspiracy. He said they allegations were ‘absolute nonsense’, but a jury at Exeter Crown Court took less than two hours to convict him. 

Victim personal statements revealed that one of the women still has nightmares about his behaviour and they were all angry that he had brushed off their complaints, forcing them to go through the ordeal of giving evidence in court. 

Writing about the original assault, one said: “I was completely embarrassed, ashamed and angry. I asked myself why he thought he could touch me in that way. 

“It was a total violation. He assumed I wanted some sort of encounter. I was completely embarrassed and upset. It was a totally inappropriate lunge. I felt violated and ashamed.” 

Greenslade, aged 72, of Longpiece, Marwood, near Barnstaple, denied but was found guilty of two counts of indecently assault and one of sexual assault. 

Judge Timothy Rose jailed for 16 months and put him on the sex offenders’ register for ten years. 

He told him: “You could be characterised in ordinary language as a sex pest. It seems to me that you had a dark side. You won’t accept it, but you could not control yourself in the presence of women. 

“The reason these women did not come forward was because of the power you had in relation to them. You were the leader of the council and they felt it impossible to do anything about it at the time. 

“You had the advantage of being able to do that because of our status. The past decades have been littered with women who have made complaints only to find they are the ones demoted or moved on while the men stay exactly where they are. 

“You were a powerful man. You were leader of the council. You were the one who were able to carry on as if nothing had happened. 

“I commend the victims for coming forward. It took a great deal of bravery and fortitude. They are to be praised and admired.” 

The judge described the site visit assault as ‘an appalling intrusion into her body and personal wellbeing and safety’. He said Greenslade ‘thought it was his right’ to touch the other women. 

During a week-long trial, the victims said they contacted the police after learning that Greenslade had received a formal censure from Devon County Council over allegations that he had harassed members of staff. 

The first victim said Greenslade had put his hand down her trousers during a site visit in Cullompton in 1995. He told her that he was happily married but didn’t have a girlfriend. 

She did not report the incident and remained on polite terms with him, even accompanying him on a royal visit in Newton Abbot a few years later. 

The second was assaulted at her workplace in Barnstaple at around the same time, when Greenslade was visiting her office as an accountant. 

She said he repeatedly brushed a hand over one breast after leaning over her as she used a photocopier and putting his arm around her head so tightly, she feared she was going to be throttled. 

The last victim was assaulted at a County Hall lunchtime reception in 2005, when he put an arm around her and ‘copped a feel’ of one breast. 

She was so shocked that she told him she would break his fingers if he did not let go. She was so awed by his position that not only did she not report his actions, but spent weeks fearing repercussions from her threat. 

Miss Jo Martin, QC, told the jury Greenslade was emboldened to commit the assaults by his positions of authority. 

“He may have been emboldened by the very fact that he got away with it in the past in relations to the first two complainants. 

“He is a man completely wrapped up in his own ego and sense of self-importance. He could easily have shrugged it off if the women had complained at the time. He felt his position protected him.” 

Miss Carolina Guiloff, defending, said Greenslade had mis-read the situations, the incidents had been short lived and opportunistic, and he is now in poor health.

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