A LEADING figure in the Hampshire business community has been cleared of raping a schoolgirl.

Derek Chartres, former chairman of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, broke down in tears as jurors found him not guilty of the offence and a string of accusations of sex acts against two girls.

The 59-year-old, who had strongly denied the charges against him, had to wait eight hours before the jury reached a majority verdict.

Mr Chartres had been wrongly accused of watching pornography and engaging in sex acts in front of schoolgirls as well as raping a girl under 16.

His wife Pearl, 51, also denied aiding and abetting a rape having been accused of lying on the bed and watching. She too was cleared of all charges.

After the case Mrs Chartres said: “It was two years of hell and I have got my life back.”

Her husband, who lives in Newport on the Isle of Wight, declined to comment.

Hell The allegations dated back to between 1982 and 1984 and arose after a woman, now in her 40s, went to police in 2010.

Mr Chartres, managing director of Business logistics and support company The Business Services Group and a former officer in the Royal Air Force police, helped found a youth version of the chamber of commerce called Young Chamber.

He was cleared of one charge of committing indecent assault, one of indecency with a child and one of raping another girl under 16.

His wife, who was on trial at Portsmouth Crown Court alongside her husband, was cleared of aiding and abetting a rape and indecent assault.

The pair were also cleared of joint charges, including four counts of committing indecency with a child.

After the verdict, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce director of operations Maureen Frost, said: “We have supported Mr Chartres in his quest to prove his innocence against these unfounded allegations.

Sympathy “We are delighted that justice has now been done but sympathise deeply for the worry and distress that this has placed on Mr Chartres and those close to him.

“We must also question the waste of public money that has occurred in