Former senior Royal Navy Office Charles Howeson takes to the stand for the first time to deny sexual assault charges

A former senior Royal Navy officer accused of sexually assaulting several young men has denied he is gay and told his trial he was horrified by the allegations.

Charles Howeson, 68, is alleged to have sexually assaulted victims during a distinguished career including groping a junior rating in a man overboard drill.

Despite complaints to Navy officials more than 30 years ago Howeson was given a warning and went on to have a lengthy and decorated service.

He became a first lieutenant and second-in-command on a ship but his trial heard claims he felt he was ‘too powerful’ to be affected by complaints against him.

Howeson also went on to allegedly abuse young men after he left the Navy and went to work for an environmental organisation.

He is now on trial at Bristol Crown Court where his barrister Daniel Janner QC described him as a man of “great integrity, charm and popularity”.

Howeson took the stand in his own defence and under questioning by his QC denied being attracted to young men and boys or being homosexual.

He said he had been “appalled and hurt” by the allegations and told how he joined the Royal Navy at 17 and rose through the ranks, leaving in 1991 as a Commander.

 Charles Howeson.

He said he left the Navy for “personal reasons”, saying that he and his wife had lost a child while he was in Gibraltar.

In addition, a tenant had “wrecked our house” and “stolen most of our belongings” and his mother had died.

Howeson said the “triple whammy” left him feeling he wanted to spend more time with his family “and a little less time on my career.”

Mr Janner said that Howeson, through his various leadership roles in business, was someone who had been “responsible for many thousands of people over his very long and successful career.”

Howeson denies 11 counts of indecently assaulting 10 young men and a boy and one count of attempted buggery.

The alleged attacks took place between December 1985 and August 1994.

The first is said to have taken place on board HMS Cleopatra during a ‘man overboard’ drill when a sailor claims he groped him.

Howeson said he was ‘absolutely appalled’ by the allegation and ‘horrified’ when confronted by the ship’s captain the following day.

He said claims he was helicoptered off the ship with blankets over his head was wrong and that he had merely been transferred to another vessel as per naval rules.

He said a second claim of indecent assault on another man on the bridge of a ship was the result of a trip on a blackout curtain.

Howeson said he had “stumbled slightly” and fallen down four small step, bumping “chest to chest” with the sailor and knocking him back a few inches.

He said he had apologised to the sailor.

Trial continues

Senior Royal Navy officer sexually assaulted nine young men but believed he was ‘unassailable’ because of his powerful position

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