Howeson, R v, Court of Appeal - Criminal Division, October 26, 2018, [2018] EWCA Crim 2503

Resolution Date:October 26, 2018
Issuing Organization:Criminal Division
Actores:Howeson, R v

Case No: 2018/00596/B2

Neutral Citation Number: [2018] EWCA Crim 2503


Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 26/10/2018







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Between :

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Mr Daniel Janner QC on behalf of the Applicant

Mr Paul Dunkels QC on behalf of the Crown

Hearing dates : 26 October 2018

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  1. This appeal concerns offences to which the provisions of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 apply. Consequently, no matter relating to the complainants (to whom we shall refer by the initials "A" to "J") shall be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify them or any of them as the victims of any of those offence. This prohibition shall last during their respective lifetimes, unless it is waived or lifted in accordance with section 3 of that Act.

  2. On 22 December 2017, in the Crown Court at Bristol (His Honour Judge Horton and a jury), the Appellant Charles Howeson was convicted, on a variety of unanimous and majority verdicts, of ten counts of indecent assault contrary to section 15(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. The jury could not reach a verdict on a further charge of attempted buggery or, in the alternative, indecent assault. In June 2018, he was re tried on those counts and acquitted. On 22 June 2018, he was sentenced by Judge Horton to an aggregate sentence of seven and a half years' imprisonment for the matters for which he was convicted.

  3. The Appellant now appeals against conviction, leave having been granted by Sir Alistair MacDuff sitting as a judge of this court. The Appellant also applies for leave to appeal against sentence, that matter having been referred to the full court by the Registrar.

  4. The Appellant was born on 27 November 1949. He has a wife and three children, and he was previously of good character. He served in the Royal Navy for over 24 years until 1990, reaching the rank of Commander. Subsequently, in the early 1990s, he was the Executive Director of the Groundwork Trust, a charity. He was later Chairman of First Great Western and Southwest Regional Health Authority, and a Director of Coutts Bank. He held a number of public posts including President of the Plymouth Area Business Council, Chief Executive Officer of the Britannia Association (an association of alumni of Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth), and a founder of the charity the Plymouth Drake Foundation. He was appointed an Honorary Commodore of the Royal Naval Reserve.

  5. The charges arose out of complaints about his conduct during his time in the Navy and whilst working at Groundwork. The complaints were all made over twenty years after the alleged incidents occurred. The prosecution case in relation to the charges was briefly as follows.

    COUNT 1: The first charge arose out of his conduct towards A, a Junior Rating on HMS Cleopatra, whilst the Appellant was First Lieutenant (i.e. second in command of the ship). As part of his duties, A had to go to the Appellant's cabin each day with draft orders for the Appellant to approve. The Appellant would initiate physical contact by touching A's hand or resting his hand on A's shoulder. This touching made A feel uncomfortable and he took to waiting outside the cabin to await the orders.

  6. On 9 December 1985, A was summoned to the Appellant's cabin at night. The Appellant told him that they were going to have a man overboard drill. They both went to the boat deck to fetch a life sized drill dummy. A led the way with the Appellant behind him. As they climbed a set of ladder stairs, A felt the Appellant touch the back of his legs and his lower back. When they reached the boat deck, the Appellant put one arm round A's shoulders and, with the other hand, grabbed at A's genitals over his clothing. A protested, and they left the boat deck. The indecent attack was sustained, lasting twenty minutes or more. A immediately complained to his Petty Officer, and was taken to the Master at Arms who was responsible for discipline on the ship. He made a statement setting out his complaint, and the allegations were investigated by the Royal Navy Special Investigations Branch; but no further action was taken as a result of the investigation.

  7. The Appellant was found guilty of COUNT 1 and sentenced to 24 months' imprisonment on this count.

  8. COUNTS 2 and 3: B was a young man under 21 years of age. In 1987, the Appellant bought Smallack House near Plymouth. Counts 2 and 3 involved an allegation that, late that year or in 1988, whilst teaching B how to shoot an air rifle in a field alongside Smallack House, the Appellant pulled down B's trousers, indecently assaulted him and attempted to insert his penis into B's anus. B said that this took place during a range of dates before the Appellant had bought the house.

  9. It was these two charges upon which the first jury were unable to agree a verdict, and the second jury acquitted. We will come on to deal with grounds of appeal shortly; but, in short, Mr Daniel Janner QC for the Appellant submits that the summing up in that second trial, by the same judge, was very different. It was shorter and fairer. The Appellant was acquitted. Mr Janner submits that, had the summing up in the first trial been fair, he would have been acquitted of all of the charges.

  10. The Appellant left the Royal Navy in 1990 and became a successful businessman and community leader.

  11. COUNTS 4, 5 and 6: These counts related to another young man, C. In 1994, C worked for a car valeting company which cleaned the Appellant's car. C had previously been in trouble with the police, and his erstwhile employer gave evidence at trial that C was a Walter Mitty character and was not trustworthy. The company was struggling, and C was laid off. The Appellant said that he would pay him to continue to clean his car and do odd jobs. To enable C to get to his house to work, the Appellant paid £400 for the repair of his car when it broke down.

  12. In the summer of 1994, on three occasions, the Appellant asked C to inspect some damp on the roof of the pump house. On each occasion, C climbed a step ladder with the Appellant behind him and the Appellant brushed his arm. As C reached upwards, the Appellant rubbed his hand or arm over C's penis over his clothing. On the third occasion, he also pressed his erect penis into C's buttocks. After that incident, C left the property and did not return.

  13. The Appellant was found guilty on each count by a 10:2 majority, and was sentenced to 18 months on each count concurrent with each other but consecutive to the other sentences.

  14. The rest of the charges concern the period in the early 1990s when the Appellant was Executive Director of Groundwork, a charity based in the Old Naval Dockyard at Plymouth which undertook restoration and thus provided work opportunities for those having difficulties in finding a job. Part of the restoration work was on Drake's Island, a neglected island with a series of underground tunnels which was formally part of the Plymouth Old Port defence arrangements. The complainants were all young men working at the trust.

  15. COUNT...

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