Ex-Royal Navy officer and Somerset council leader Richard Pallister on trial for alleged sex abuse

Richard Pallister was charged with 36 historical sex abuse allegations. Credit: ITV News

A former council leader and Royal Navy officer "used his power and presence" to groom and sexually assault his victims over a 17-year period, a jury has been told.

Richard Pallister is on trial for dozens of historical sex abuse allegations, including against children as young as 13.

He has been charged with 33 counts of indecent assault and three counts of gross indecency with a child.

The 73-year-old denies all of the charges and a trial began at Taunton Crown Court on Monday 6 September.

Pallister was the leader of South Somerset District Council between 2011 and 2018 and an air traffic controller at the Royal Naval Air Station base at Yeovilton, Somerset.

The court heard all of the allegations date back to 1987 and 2004.

Prosecutor Charles Row opened the case against Pallister - known as Ric - and said he was a 'big strong man' who forced his unwanted sexual attention on four victims who said he was 'relentless'.

He said Pallister - who was a Lib Dem councillor and also a church warden and sidesman - was a 'big personality' who was enthusiastic and energetic in organising events.

But Mr Row said he was a 'bit overpowering, he was physically big and strong and invaded personal space'.

He said he would take people's faces in his hands and kiss them on the lips and embrace bodies.

Mr Row said it became the norm and people would say 'oh that's just Ric'.

But he told the jury: "It was to be a front for more sinister behaviour."

He said Pallister 'used his power and presence to take advantage of four complainants in this case'.

He said Pallister 'consciously and deliberately forced himself on them with unwanted sexual attention' and the 'more risky the behaviour the better' and he was able to do it in plain sight.

Mr Row said Pallister 'groomed, manipulated, controlled and coerced' the victims and the defendant used mind games against his victims who had insecurities and were vulnerable leaving them with mental scars to this day.

The allegations include kissing the victims on the mouth, touching their bottoms, breasts and genitalia and placing their hands on his penis.

The alleged abuse happened in a jacuzzi and in cars and at private homes.

The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.