March 2013

Former councillor Robert Giddings jailed for indecently assaulting children

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HE WAS a respected member of a Hampshire community.

Robert Giddings was a chairman of school governors, a former parish council leader and a respected businessman.

Now his reputation is in tatters after a judge sentenced him to ten years in prison for indecently assaulting young girls.

The 54-year-old was handed the sentence at Southampton Crown Court after he was found guilty of four counts of indecent assault following a trial in January.

It emerged at the trial that Giddings subjected the three girls – aged between eight and 11 years old – to assaults from 1987 to 1994, and had been cautioned by police 22 years ago for trying to grab a young girl.

Giddings, who was a partner in his family firm RF Giddings, a sawmill in Netley Marsh, was arrested in January last year.

He was charged a month later and quit his role with Netley Marsh Parish Council when the allegations came to light. He was also a former chairman of governors at Netley Marsh Infant School.

Giddings, who wore a navy suit and blue tie, showed no emotion as Judge Derwin Hope handed him his sentence.

Judge Hope said: “You have now been convicted for a really serious sexual assault.

“This case quite clearly is a tragedy from all points of views.

“It has broken up the family and the girls have had to live with totally unjust humiliation of not being believed and had to relive the events through the trial.

“The psychological effects on each of them have been enormous and you still have not expressed regret or remorse to each of them for what you have done.

“I take into account what this has done to your personal, family and community life, and the fact you’ve had no further offending since 1994.

“I have read a substantial amount of references but there is no doubt at all that you have seriously harmed these three girls by your behaviour and indeed that has continued to have an effect on them today.”

He also ordered Giddings to sign the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

David Richards, defending, said Giddings was a “trusted friend and colleague” that had built up respect from the community.

He said: “These offences are old. That does not necessarily provide the mitigation but in the past 20 years or so since those offences Mr Giddings has contributed to the community hugely.

“This is someone who has commanded respect from the community and from different parts of the community.

“He is a trusted friend, colleague, leader of the council, and chair of governors, and throughout these 20 years he has worked selflessly for others.

“Old and young across the community speak well of Robert Giddings.”

January 2013

Shamed Ringwood businessman and long-serving councillor found guilty of child sex abuse charges

A SHAMED former governor of a Hampshire infant school is today facing jail after being found guilty of indecently assaulting three girls under the age of 14.

After nearly nine hours of deliberation a jury delivered majority verdicts against former long-serving councillor Robert Anthony Giddings, who was charged with four counts of indecent assault.

Tears could be heard from the gallery at Southampton Crown Court, as 54-year-old Giddings was found guilty of the “despicable” crimes dating back to the 1980s and 1990s when the children were as young as eight years old.

Judge Derwyn Hope told Giddings, of Wayside Road, Ringwood, he would be placed on the sex offenders’ register but gave no further indication of the punishment he would receive.

Sentencing will take place on February 11. Defending barrister David Richards said: “My client knows where he’s going to spend the next substantial period of time.”

Giddings, was a boss at his family-run sawmill RF Giddings in Ringwood, which employs more than 35 people.

During the trial the jury heard how former Netley Marsh Parish Council chairman and long-serving councillor Giddings had been cautioned by police 22 years ago for trying to grab a young girl.

But fresh allegations came to light in January last year when the successful businessman, who was a partner in his family firm RF Giddings, a sawmill in Netley Marsh, was arrested.

The following month he was charged and at the same time he quit his role with the council and left the family business.

The court heard from each of the three victims who are now women, who told how he touched them indecently and left them feeling “horrible” and “uncomfortable”.

After the verdict, investigating officer Detective Sergeant Dave Brunsden of Hampshire police said: “Giving evidence in court against this man was particularly difficult for these victims and I commend them for their bravery in coming forward and reporting these despicable crimes to the police.

“This ultimately led to the defendant being charged and convicted.

Although this may help in bringing some degree of closure to the victims, it is still something they will live with for the rest of their lives.”

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