A RESPECTED solicitor who defended paedophiles in court has been jailed for more than eight years for sexual assaults on young girls and boys from a church youth group three decades ago.

‘Evil’ Mike Pulsford sexually assaulted three boys and three young girls, forcing them to kiss him, touching them inappropriately and even telling one victim it happened because the then 12-year-old boy was ‘pretty’.

As a solicitor, Pulsford spent decades representing a series of sex offenders in the Swindon courts, despite knowing he had abused children – starting when he was just 23 years old.

The 67-year-old, formerly of Corsham but who gave the courts an address in Streatham, south London, admitted 16 counts of indecent assault which happened between 1974 and 1989.

Pulsford, who had worked for Chippenham law firm Jeary and Lewis before his victims came forward, was a youth club leader and volunteer with the Corsham-based church group Urban Saints for around 30 years.

He was working as a clerk to the justices when he was admitted as a solicitor in 1980, becoming a deputy clerk to the North Wiltshire Magistrates a year later.

The solicitor was one of the first in the country to receive rights of power to be heard in a crown court, despite not actually being a barrister.

He has since defended clients including a number of convicted sex offenders and, at the time, Britain’s youngest drink driver.

The solicitor also represented aristocrat the Earl of Cardigan when he was cleared of assaulting a man in a row over family paintings which were being sold.

One victim bravely stood and faced his abuse, questioning whether Pulsford joined the Crusaders just to get to children and telling him that describing him as a man or even an animal ‘would be a travesty’.

Another told the court Pulsford, who sat emotionless as his victims faced him, would even read a specific chapter from the bible, titled Love to her while they were alone together.

The solicitor carried out the sick sexual assaults on youngsters while volunteering for church group the Crusaders, now known as the Urban Saints.

Judge Peter Henry told Pulsford he had pretended to live by Christian values he was teaching people, but the whole time he took advantage of his position to abuse young children.

The judge said: “You were a sexual predator. Whilst it might be said in the 1970s and 80s the public were less atuned to the serious impact of sexual abuse on children, you would be acutely aware as a solicitor.”

Prosecutor Simon Wilshere told Southampton Crown Court, Hants, Pulsford had been a senior group leader with the Crusaders, where he met all his victims.

The court heard Pulsford forced his victims to kiss him and even showed one youngster a horror film so he was scared enough to join the solicitor in his bed at his home in Gastard, Wiltshire, where he then sexually assaulted him.

The court heard the attacks happened at Crusaders camps on the Isle of Wight, as well as some at his home in Gastard.

Reading a statement to the court, one male victim, now in his 50s, said: “I wonder if he was only in the Crusaders to gain potentially unlimited access to children.

“My childhood innocence was taken away by this evil individual. I was manipulated by an evil individual. Describing him as a person or even an animal would be a travesty.”

The court also heard from one of his female victims, who he ‘groomed’ over a number of years, starting by driving her to a layby in his car where they would chat and ending after they had sex when she turned 16.

However, when she came forward to report him in 2011 Pulsford denied it and continued his work as a solicitor, finally admitting to the offences last October.

As Judge Henry jailed Pulsford for eight and eight months, he told him he will be banned from working with children for the rest of his life.

Mitigating, Michael Phillips told the court Pulsford had ‘accepted the title of paedophile’ but had now changed his ways.

The senior investigating officer for Hampshire Police, Detective Inspector Toby Elcock, gave his reaction to the sentence.

He said: “Michael Pulsford was trusted as a youth group leader to protect the children in his charge, but instead abused this trust over and over again by indecently assaulting them.

“This was a complex investigation carried out by the Operation Marmion team, and we are pleased that the victims have now finally found justice having suffered the effects of this terrible abuse for decades.

“The bravery and courage they have shown during the course of this investigation is remarkable.

“I want to appeal to anyone who has been affected by this type of abuse to come forward and talk to us, and be reassured that you don’t have to suffer in silence.”