A FORMER teacher and town council chairman is standing trial charged with indecently assaulting two boys in the 1980s.

Keith Tait, 77, appeared at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday to face 17 charges relating to allegations he abused two teenage boys.

Tait, a former headteacher at an Essex school, denies four counts of indecency with a child and 13 counts of indecent assault.

The charges relate to allegations dating back to the 1980s.

Tait, of North Mill Place, Halstead, represented the Shelley ward on Ongar Town Council for 36 years from 1977 until 2013.

A jury was sworn in yesterday morning, with Judge David Turner QC telling the panel the trial is likely to last two weeks.

Addressing the jury, he said: “I hope your hearts didn’t sink when you heard this is a case involving sexual allegations.

“I’m afraid the courts try a lot of these cases these days, including cases like this which lawyers sometimes call historic sexual allegations.

“You’re going to be unpacking things which occurred or didn’t occur 30 plus years ago.

“Let me say straight away that’s not unusual these days.

“There is nothing sinister in the fact you are trying allegations which are now quite old.

“The courts do that, juries do that all the time.”

Judge Turner said he would sum up the evidence and offer legal guidance to the jury to help them reach their verdicts at the end of the trial.

He said the jury would need to bring “calm objectivity and freedom from prejudice” to the case, urging the panel to “set completely aside” any preconceptions about victims and defendants in cases involving historic sexual allegations.

He added: “The indictment involves two complainants who are talking about things that happened to them when they were teenagers.

“They’re now people in mid-life and that will be unpacked carefully by prosecution and defence counsel, who will be asking questions to try and sharpen what has or hasn’t happened and to help you in your quest for some answers here.”