A SOLICITOR has been jailed for more than eight years for sexually abusing children he befriended at meetings of a Christian youth group.

Appearing at Southampton Crown Court Michael Pulsford, 68, was imprisoned for behaviour described by the judge as "very far from the Christian values you were pretending to demonstrate".

Pulsford, who preyed on six children over a 15-year period, admitted a total of 16 indecent assaults.

He worked as a clerk at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court in the 1970s and committed some of the offences at summer camps on the Isle of Wight.

All his victims were either members of the Crusaders youth movement or knew someone who was.

He was one of the organisation's group leaders and abused his position of power, influence and trust for his own sexual gratification, the court heard.

Simon Wilshire<CORR>, prosecuting, said one of the victims approached the police in 2011 but Pulsford denied the allegations and no charges were brought.

His crimes only came to light after other people came forward in 2017.

One of them read a victim impact statement to the court in which he described being indecently assaulted by Pulsford after being enticed into an empty dormitory on the Isle of Wight in 1974.

He said: "That week changed my life forever. He was in a leadership role. He manipulated me into making a choice that wasn't a choice.

"I have cried enough tears to fill the River Thames."

Another victim went to a Friday evening meeting of the Crusaders and spent the night at Pulford's home near Melksham, Wiltshire, after being told the defendant would take him to a football match the next day. He was invited into Pulsford's bed and assaulted.

One of the other people targeted said he had suffered "40 years of torment".

The court also heard from one of Pulsford's female victims, who said: "On more than one occasion I have contemplated taking my own life to rid me of these nightmares."

She described the defendant's behaviour towards her as "selfish and grotesque".

Another victim was abused three times in 1989 and has never felt comfortable in the presence of men. She even insisted on having a female instructor when learning to drive.

Michael Phillips, defending, said his client committed the offences after being "overwhelmed by his desires".

He added: "He did many wicked things over a prolonged period of time but is not beyond redemption. He has done much evil but much good as well."

Mr Phillips said Pulsford was separated from his wife and was also likely to be banned from the legal profession as a result of his crimes.

Judge Peter Henry said the defendant was a sexual predator who preyed on three boys and three girls - all aged 12-15 - between 1974 and 1989.

He told him: "You did so by taking advantage of your position with the Crusaders organisation. You were a leader in a position of considerable influence over impressionable children.

"What you did was very far from the Christian values you were pretending to demonstrate.

"I do not regard these crimes as opportunistic. You knew perfectly well that you had a power over them and you were prepared to use it."

Pulsford, of Lansdown Hill, London, was jailed for eight-and-a-half years and banned from working with children for life.