Exmouth pensioner jailed for historical sex offences

PUBLISHED: 15:54 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:56 31 October 2019

Lestr Hartnell. Picture: Getty/Devon and Cornwal Police

Lestr Hartnell. Picture: Getty/Devon and Cornwal Police


A churchgoer has been jailed for the historical abuse which has caused his two victims to suffer years of emotional turmoil.

Lestr Hartnell. Picture: Devon and Cornwal PoliceLestr Hartnell. Picture: Devon and Cornwal Police

Exmouth pensioner Lester Hartnell sexually assaulted two children - a girl and a boy - in East Devon.

His crimes remained secret until the two victims discovered each had suffered similar ordeals in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Hartnell, now aged 79, has since lived in Exmouth, where he was a respected member of a church congregation.

The grandfather never told his wife or children and his past remained secret until the two victims went to the police.

Both wrote victim statements about how their life had been affected by their childhood experiences.

The girl, now a middle-aged woman, said: "I have re-lived it many times throughout my life and it has never completely gone away."

The male victim said: "I was scared that as a child, nobody would believe me. I felt embarrassment and great shame."

Hartnell, of Liverton Close, admitted two indecent assaults against the girl and four counts of indecency or indecent assault against the boy.

He was jailed for six years by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court with a one year extended licence.

The judge told him: "It is clear from the victim personal statements that you have radically altered the course of their lives and your abuse has profoundly overshadowed their existence since then."

Hartnell admitted both offences when interviewed by police, although he said he had little memory of abusing the boy.

Kelly Scrivener, defending, said Hartnell was a victim of abuse as a child.

She said he made a conscious decision to change his life and has been married for almost 50 years.

She said he is ashamed of what he did and now thinks his actions were abhorrent. Both he and his wife are in poor health. He has been treated for cancer in the past and has recently been diagnosed with skin cancer.

An NSPCC spokesperson has welcomed the sentencing of Lester Hartnell and said it shows that abusers are not immune from justice, no matter how long it takes to catch them.

A spokesperson said: "It is evident that Hartnell's actions have had a cruel and long-lasting impact on the children he targeted.

"Historical cases such as this demonstrate that survivors of child sexual abuse will be listened to, irrespective of how long ago the crime was committed.

"Empowering people with the confidence to speak out about abuse is crucial, and it's why the NSPCC's Schools Service offers its free Speak out Stay Safe programme to all primary schools, so that children know what abuse is and how to identify a trusted adult they can talk to who they know will act to keep them safe."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Exmouth Journal. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Comments have been disabled on this article.

Latest from the Exmouth Journal