A COMMUNITY stalwart known for his charity work has been jailed after admitting the sexual abuse of a teenage girl.

Michael Hawkins, of Farwell Road, Poole, wept in the dock as a judge at Bournemouth Crown Court heard he had groped and assaulted the child on dates between December 2013 and July this year.

The 67-year-old is well-known for his work at the Alderney West Community Centre, where he has often dressed up as Santa for local children at Christmas.

Prosecuting, Simon Jones said the victim was a teenager some 54 years younger than the defendant.

“He told her it should be their little secret,” he said.

“The defendant has written a victim impact statement in which she says she feels ‘dirty and ashamed’.”

Hawkins abused the child both in woodland at a Dorset beauty spot overlooking the sea and on a drive to buy her sweets.

He admitted two counts of assault by penetration, two of sexual assault and taking an indecent photograph of the youngster’s breasts, which he put on his computer’s hard drive.

Police were called by observant teachers at the girl’s school.

Anne Brown, mitigating, highlighted the defendant’s good work in his community, and said his family were standing by him.

“[He is] an old man to be colliding with criminal justice [for the first time],” she said.

Hawkins has helped at the community centre for many years, doing everything from fundraising to cutting the grass and hosting events for residents.

He also volunteered to help with the Scouts when one of his now grown-up sons wished to join as a child.

“For 66 years of his life he has led an extremely productive life,” she said.

But Judge Samuel Wiggs said a pre-sentence report prepared by the Probation Service indicated the defendant’s “distorted thinking”.

“He thought she was interested in him, he thought there was a ‘vibe’ and he said the legal age of consent is wrong,” he said to Ms Brown.

“He thought she was able to give consent to sexual behaviour.”

The judge sentenced Hawkins, a former Poole Grammar School pupil who served in the Royal Artillery for 16 years, to five years in prison.

The defendant will also have to sign the sex offenders’ register and is subject to a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for five years following his release.