Man jailed for assaults spanning 35 years

PUBLISHED: 16:18 24 April 2007 | UPDATED: 20:01 01 June 2010

Bruce Bell

Bruce Bell

A FORMER partner of the now closed Potty Plants garden centre in Wisbech has started a 31-month jail term for indecency offences spanning more than 35 years. Sixty-three-year-old Bruce Bell, of Newbridge Lane, Wisbech, had been convicted of six offences o

A FORMER partner of the now closed Potty Plants garden centre in Wisbech has started a 31-month jail term for indecency offences spanning more than 35 years.

Sixty-three-year-old Bruce Bell, of Newbridge Lane, Wisbech, had been convicted of six offences of indecent assault or sexual touching last month at Cambridge Crown Court.

In sentencing Bell on Friday, Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said: "These were the activities which, when you were growing up, would have been dismissed as the activities of an old man and ignored.

"However, the court has grown up and learnt about the impact that actions like these have on people's lives for a long time, or indefinitely."

Bell was found guilty on five counts of indecent assault on females under 16 years old between the early-1970s and mid-1980s. He was also convicted of a sixth count of indecent assault, after he took a 14-year-old girl into his home in June last year and assaulted her.

Judge Hawkesworth said: "You got to know her by chatting her up and providing her cigarettes. You then lured her into your house and assaulted her when you were alone in your property."

After his arrest in June, police were made aware of a number of other cases stretching back to the 1970s and a major investigation throughout the summer led to Bell being charged with nine counts of attempted rape and indecent assault. He was convicted of six of those charges.

Jacqueline Matthews-Stroud, defending, said that despite the "damage" caused to family and friends by Bell's conviction, he remains a person they have "a great deal of affection for".

She said: "The fact that family and friends still hold him in high regard does say something of the man who, over the years, has provided them with help and assistance."

But Judge Hawkesworth said: "What he did was a breach of their trust."

Miss Matthews-Stroud also said Bell was ready to deal with custody "where he knows he will remain for a period of time", but urged that a heavy sentence did not fit the crime he had committed.

In passing sentence, Judge Hawkesworth said: "It was not an offence of the most serious kind but who knows what impact these offences will have had on the victims."

Along with the prison sentence, Judge Hawkesworth ordered Bell to not work with children under 16, and not to be in company with children under 16, for up to 10 years. Bell was also ordered to register on the sex offenders' list indefinitely.

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