David Hedges, 57, jailed for 28 years for abusing girls over decades

DAVID Hedges has been jailed for 28 years in prison for abusing girls – including one under 13 – over decades.

The 57-year-old, from Dilton Marsh, was previously found guilty of three counts of sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 and four counts of indecent assault against the same girl on no fewer than 17 occasions.

His abuse was perpetrated over several years throughout 90s and 2000s.

On Tuesday (July 2) at Salisbury Crown Court, Hedges was sentenced to 28 years imprisonment, plus a further year on licence.

He will be required to serve a minimum of two-thirds of the sentence before being eligible for parole, when his case will be evaluated.

In addition to the custodial sentence, he is also subject to the requirements of being a registered sex offender, conditions of a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) and conditions of a restraining order to prohibit future contact with children indefinitely.

Det Con Graham Mansell, of Wiltshire Police, said: “I welcome this sentencing, as it reflects the seriousness of these offences and the impact they have had on the victims.

“While custodial sentences ultimately end, longer term protection is provided by the orders which further prohibit contact with children in the future.

“This case involves the most abhorrent sexual abuse of very young children lasting for several years. Steps taken in 2005 prevented further abuse, but there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue a prosecution.

“The investigation was reopened in 2017 after the victims bravely came forward and gave their evidence to detectives in the child abuse investigation team.

“Despite the abuse suffered, the victims were able to find the strength and courage to give their accounts which ultimately led to their abuser being found guilty.

“When the victims were able to give their evidence, the investigation could be pursued and their abuser prosecuted.”

Hedges was jailed in a sentencing hearing at Salisbury Crown Court. Picture: Google

Hedges was jailed in a sentencing hearing at Salisbury Crown Court. Picture: Google

Det Con Mansell thanked the victims for their “incredible bravery” in coming forward and recounting “the most distressing and traumatic incidents” in court.

“Their ability to do this made it possible to achieve a successful prosecution, resulting in today’s sentence,” he added.

“This could not have been achieved without their resilience and endurance. Without their evidence it would have remained impossible to prosecute their abuser.

“I’d also like to thank the members of the jury, who have to face the distressing evidence of the case and without whom offenders like Hedges could not be brought to justice.

“I hope this case can inspire confidence that victims of non-recent sexual abuse will be believed, the police will be tenacious in the pursuit of justice and will investigate thoroughly. Where there is sufficient evidence a prosecution will be pursued.

“Thankfully, crimes of this nature are rare, but it serves as an important reminder that there are a small minority of people who seek to sexually exploit and abuse children, even very young children.

“Wiltshire police will continue to do everything within its power to bring child abusers to justice and safeguard children and victims of abuse.

“I would like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who may have been a victim of sexual abuse to report it to police.

“We will investigate, provide you with the full support available, and do all that we can to bring such offenders to justice.”

To report sexual abuse, contact police on 101.

Victims can also seek support and counselling from the Swindon and Wiltshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) on 01793 781916.

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I am the editor in chief of Blackmore Vale media, which includes the New Blackmore Vale, New Stour & Avon, Salisbury & Avon Gazette and the Purbeck Gazette, having been a reporter for some 20 years. In my spare time, I am a festival lover, with a particular focus on Glastonbury. I live in Somerset with my wife and two children.