A FORMER parish councillor has been jailed for seven years for a series of sex assaults on young girls.

Anthony Stewart, of The Rookeries, Marks Tey, claimed he had done nothing to the girls and had always behaved properly towards them.

But a jury did not believe him and he was yesterday convicted on a total of 16 charges.

One of his victims was aged five.

There were shouts of “thank you” and clapping from the public gallery at Chelmsford Crown Court after the jury’s unanimous verdict was announced.

Stewart, 52, showed no emotion as a judge told him: “You threatened and cajoled your victims and corrupted them with your lust.”

Judge Anthony Goldstaub QC added: “You have left them psychologically scarred and required them to relive intimate details in court.

“Their distress was plain. You have no remorse.”

Stewart was also put on the sex offenders’ register for life.

The trial heard the offences dated back more than 20 years and involved three girls now aged between their teens and thirties.Police had arrested Stewart in April 1997 over claims involving one girl. But he denied the girl’s claims and the matter went no further.

After more claims by another girl, Stewart was arrested again and this time he was charged, the trial heard.

Stewart – a Sible Hedingham parish councillor from July 2008 to October 2010 – faced charges mainly including indecent assault and sexual activity with children.

Six of the indecent assaults took place on one girl when she was aged between 11 and 14. Another girl was the victim in four charges of sexual activity with a child and one of attempted penetration.

She was aged about 11 at the time of the first incident, prosecutor Carol Gardiner told the court.

There were also five charges of indecent assault involving the third girl, Miss Gardiner added.

The girls were aged between five and 14 when the offences took place between August 1989 and March 2007.

They took place in the Sible Hedingham and Grays areas.

Stewart claimed the allegations were “rubbish” and said there had never been any sexual contact with the girls.