'Abhorrent' car dealer jailed for child abuse
A CAR dealer has been jailed for seven years for sexually abusing five young girls over a 14-year period. Graham Pope, 67, had taken advantage of the girls aged mainly between seven and 10 when they stayed over in his homes in Hinxworth, Ashwell and Guild
A CAR dealer has been jailed for seven years for sexually abusing five young girls over a 14-year period.
Graham Pope, 67, had taken advantage of the girls aged mainly between seven and 10 when they stayed over in his homes in Hinxworth, Ashwell and Guilden Morden as friends of his two daughters.
Judge Michael Kay QC told him at Luton Crown Court on Monday: "In the 1980s you were a successful businessman running a car franchise. You lived in a large house with a swimming pool and had a number of possessions like an unusual bicycle seating four, a sports car and an airplane.
"You encouraged local children to play at your house and their parents believed you were doing it out of the kindness of your heart and they had no qualms about permitting them to stay over.
"But unknown to them and your own family you were a sexual predator and you encouraged them to stay over so you could select the most suitable children and groom them to fulfil your perverted desires.
"Your conduct was totally abhorrent. You were cunning and manipulative and a serial offender."
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Pope, of Thompsons Meadow, Guilden Morden originally pleaded not guilty to 20 charges of indecent assault between 1985 and 2000. In September a jury convicted him of 15 charges. Four charges were dropped half way through the trial and the jury failed to agree on one charge.
During a nine-day trial the jury heard how Pope treated his children's friends to fun activities, but would then use bedtimes and bath times as an opportunity to touch them indecently.
He claimed that nothing indecent happened and that he was the victim of a vendetta by another girl, who had put the girls up to making the allegations.
But Ann Evans, prosecuting, said there were striking similarities between the accounts given by the five girls.
Pope, who ran a car dealership in Ickleford, was arrested on August 10 last year and immediately described the allegations as "nonsense".
Patricia May, defending, said: "He now sees his conduct in a different light and feels very remorseful.
"His reputation is in ruins, the esteem he was held in has absolutely gone, and the effect on his wife and daughters is devastating and he will serve his sentence with the knowledge of the heartache he has caused them.
"His business is finished and there are substantial debts."
Pope must register as a sex offender for life and have no unsupervised contact with any children under 16 for ever.