THE FORMER leader of South Somerset District Council has had his day in court delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ric Pallister, who led the council between 2011 and 2018, has been charged by Avon and Somerset Constabulary with 23 historic counts of indecent assault, with the alleged offences dating back to the 1980s.

Mr Pallister was originally due to appear before Yeovil Magistrates Court on Tuesday (March 31).

But this hearing has now been postponed until the middle of May as a result of the courts service being reduced during the ongoing health crisis.

The courts confirmed in March that Mr Pallister faced 23 charges, which date between 1985 and 1987 – namely:

12 counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 14

four counts of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 15

seven counts of indecent assault on a woman aged over 16

A spokesman said: “This matter has been adjourned until May 12 at Yeovil Magistrates Court, and a confirmation notice has been sent.”

Mr Pallister, 73, represented the Parrett ward east of Crewkerne – which includes his home village of East Chinnock – for nearly 20 years between 1999 and 2019.

Mr Pallister previously indicated he would be making no comment about the charges or the case at this present time.

A spokesman for South Somerset District Council said: “We are aware of the very serious allegations that have been made.

“When we were informed of the investigation, appropriate safeguarding action was taken.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”

The police have said anyone who wishes to speak about the investigation should call 101 and quote crime reference number 5218032655.