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Chamber boss denies sexually abusing four teenagers over a two-year period
THE former president of Abingdon’s chamber of commerce bought a teenage girl lacy underwear and indecently assaulted her, a prosecutor has alleged.
Paul Townsend, left, stood down in March from the position he had held since 2011 after it was alleged he had sexually abused four girls aged between 13 and 16 over a two-year period.
The 28-year-old, of Hadland Road, was also on the committee of Dunmore Pre-school in the town and sat on the board of the Choose Abingdon Partnership.
He denies a total of 21 counts – 14 of sexual activity with a child, three of sexual assault and four of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
Yesterday a jury was told how he had allegedly bought one of the complainants “lacy” underwear and asked her to model it for him.
Fern Russell, prosecuting, said that Townsend tried to make “progress” with his alleged victims by increasing the seriousness of the abuse over time.
She said in one case he went from regularly hugging one of the complainants, to having full sex with her when she was 13.
Miss Russell said Townsend tried to justify his frequent “inappropriate” comments to the girls by presenting himself as a “laughing, jokey kind of guy”.
But in her police interview, one of the complainants, alleged Townsend touched her breasts. She was asked how it made her feel and she replied: “Really dirty. I felt like I hadn’t washed because I don’t like anybody touching me.”
She said he also pulled at the front of her T-shirt so he could look down her top, which she described as “perverted” and “horrible”.
In her opening speech to the jury Miss Russell said: “With some of the girls he got away with more than with others.
“Especially if he was able to make progress with them when they were particularly young.
“The defendant, of course, denies all wrongdoing, otherwise we wouldn’t need to be here.
“He said, in effect, ‘well I certainly haven’t done anything serious, I’m a friendly sort of guy’.
“‘It’s just me being jokey and friendly – that’s the kind of guy I am’.
“And that’s exactly how Paul Townsend passes himself off over all the years he was taking advantage of these girls.
“He says ‘I’m just friendly, jokey Paul’.
“A young girl might feel bad about making a fuss. She might feel silly or scared.
“Paul Townsend has a wife and a family, so the girls might feel like they are blowing all this out of proportion.
“This might just be part of growing up.”
But the barrister said when the same girl received underwear from him as a present she threw it away.
Miss Russell said: “She had a message from him asking for pictures of her wearing the bra.
“He said she should try it on so he could rate her in it.
“She felt it was all her fault, she must have done something to make this grown up act in this way.”
The barrister added that when Townsend squeezed another girl’s bottom she “kicked him in the shins”.
The trial continues at Oxford Crown Court and is expected to last two weeks.