A WELL known businessman, former council boss and ex-chair of governors at a Hampshire infant school sexually abused three girls under the age of 14, a court heard.

Robert Giddings, of Wayside Road in Ringwood, is accused of repeated abuse against the three victims dating back 30 years, one of whom was just eight years old when she says his lewd behaviour began.

Jurors at Southampton Crown Court heard how the 54-year-old was cautioned by police 22 years ago after he was accused of trying to grab a young girl.

The offence was only brought to light when the youngster raised the alarm with a school nurse and teachers who called in police, but “very few people” were made aware, the court was told.

Now Giddings is accused of four different counts of indecent assault which the prosecution say reflect “multiple incidents” relating to each of the three girls, who are now adults.

The father-of-three is a well-known figure in the New Forest where he was, until last year when he was arrested and charged, sales director and partner at RF Giddings – a sawmill run by his family in Bartley.

As well as previously holding the post of chairman of governors at Netley Marsh Infant School, he was also the long-standing chairman of Netley Marsh Parish Council – a post he also quit last February around the time he was questioned by police.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Nick Tucker told the court that Giddings had molested the children on numerous occasions during the 1980s and 1990s.

Giving evidence, one victim who made the initial claims in 1991 against Giddings told how she was left “shocked” and feeling sick when he tried to “grab” her arm or breast. She pushed him away and managed to run off.

She recalled to the court five occasions when she claims he indecently touched her, the first when she was around eight years old, and she was left “scared and confused”.

Jurors have been told that similar claims have been made by two other girls who will give evidence against Giddings this week.

Giddings denies four charges of indecent assault.

The case continues.