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Jailed solicitor struck off for historic child abuse convictions

SDT: Strike-off required

A veteran solicitor serving nearly nine years in prison after being convicted of multiple counts of historic indecent assault against children has been struck off.

Public confidence in, and reputation of, the profession “required no lesser sanction” than Michael Philip Pulsford being removed from the roll, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal said.

Seventy next year, Pulsford qualified in 1980 and was practising up until his conviction in 2018. He was one of the first solicitors in the country to acquire higher rights for criminal practice.

Over a series of three trials in 2018 and 2019, he was convicted of 16 offences of indecent assault on boys and girls under the age of 16, and received a combined custodial sentence of eight years and eight months.

He was also placed on the barring list by the Disclosure and Barring Service and has to sign on the sex offenders register indefinitely.

The offences occurred between 1974 and 1989, when Pulsford was acting as a leader in a Christian youth group. The abuse took place at football camps organised by group on the Isle of Wight, as well as at Pulsford’s home, his office and his car.

Southampton Crown Court heard that one victim, a girl who was aged 15 at the time of the abuse, had met Pulsford through the group before conducting work experience at his law firm.

Prosecutor Simon Wilshire said: “The work experience went without incident and she was invited to return for a summer job. When she returned she started to get uncomfortable feelings.”

The court heard how Pulsford proceeded to assault the teenager on three separate occasions, beginning with a forceful kiss on his office sofa before progressing to more serious sexual touching.

Three of Pulsford’s victims confronted him in court and read victim impact statements to the judge. One said: “That week changed my life forever. I was a child in his care.

“Children need lines beyond which adults do not go. He manipulated me into making a choice that was not a choice. He bullied me for his own selfish gratification.

“I trusted him as a person of authority, a professed Christian. It never occurred to me that sexual activity was on the agenda.”

He added: “I have cried enough tears to fill the River Thames.”

Another victim said they were “appalled” to find out on Google that Pulsford had defended a number of child sex offence cases in his role as a solicitor.

Media reports of the trial record that his defence counsel said in mitigation that the incidents of abuse were “extremely unpleasant, but not as unpleasant as they could have been”, and that Pulsford “has accepted the title of being a paedophile, which is a rarity in these kinds of cases… hopefully it shows there is remorse”.

Jailing Pulsford, His Honour Judge Peter Henry said his actions amounted to a “gross breach of trust”.

He continued: “I accept that the abuse stopped in 1989 and it is to your credit that you must have realised that it could not and should not and must not go on and there is no evidence that you have lived anything but a law-abiding life since that time.

“I accept that many people have found you to have been a very positive influence on their lives and speak highly of your character… and described you as a mixed bag who has done much evil but also much good.

“You pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and that really is your best mitigation together with the fact that there have been no complaints since 1989. I accept that you do have, apart from this of course, an unblemished career as a solicitor. There are bound to be further repercussions including being struck off.”

Pulsford did not contest the prosecution and agreed to be struck off.