Ex-Chamber of Commerce chief says he was a 'total idiot' to buy girl, 13, lacy underwear (From The Oxford Times)
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Ex-Chamber of Commerce chief says he was a 'total idiot' to buy girl, 13, lacy underwear
THE former president of Abingdon’s Chamber of Commerce has said he was a “total idiot” to buy lacy underwear for a 13-year-old girl.
Paul Townsend took the stand yesterday in Oxford Crown Court on the tenth day of his trial and said he had “changed everything” about his behaviour since being charged.
The 28-year-old told a jury he had stopped making “inappropriate” comments to women after being accused of sexually abusing four girls over a two-year period.
Townsend – who yesterday described himself as “a bit of a lad” – denies a total of 20 counts, 13 of sexual activity with a child, three of sexual assault and four of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.
The complainants in the case were aged between 13 and 16 at the time the abuse is alleged to have taken place.
Townsend, of Hadland Road, Abingdon, was also on the committee of Dunmore Pre-School in the town and sat on the board of the Choose Abingdon Partnership, which was set up to promote the town.
Giving evidence yesterday, he described his life since the charges were brought and said: “I have changed everything about me.
“I don’t say or do anything now without thinking about it. I don’t go to places unless I have got someone with me who can be a witness for me so nothing else can be alleged.”
Katy Thorne, defending, asked him why he bought one of the complainants – who now claims he raped her three times – a bra and knickers when she was 13 years old.
He replied: “She asked me what I was getting her for her birthday, so I said ‘what do you want?’ “I thought she’d say a chocolate bar or something, but she said she wanted underwear.
“I was shocked, but then I didn’t think anymore about it. She contacted me a couple of days later on Facebook and brought the subject up again.”
He added: “I went into a charity shop in Abingdon and it was just lying there.”
Miss Thorne asked him: “How do you feel about that now?”
He replied: “It was a very silly thing to do. I was a total idiot.”
The barrister said: “Why did you do it?”
Townsend answered: “I really don’t know. It was a really stupid thing to do.”
He also admitted referring to the four complainants as “babe” and “sexy”, but said it was how he addressed most of the women he knew. Miss Thorne said: “Looking back, can you see that sometimes that might have been inappropriate?”
He replied: “Yes I can, yes.”
The barrister continued: “Women’s attributes, is that something which you would have commented on?”
He said: “Yes it is, yes."
She asked: “To who?”
He replied: “Just generally. I might say ‘she looks nice’.
Miss Thorne said: “Your attitude towards the opposite sex generally, what would you describe yourself as?”
Townsend said: “A bit of a lad is probably the best way to put it.”
But the defendant denied groping the teenage complainants, making sexual references about them and repeatedly denied raping one of them.
The trial continues.