A former Baptist youth pastor has been jailed for indecent assault against three young boys in the 1970s and 1980s.
Stephen Hardwicke, 63, was sentenced to five years in prison at Harrow Crown Court on Friday for five counts of indecent assault against two victims under the Sexual Offences Act 1956.
Hardwick, who used to lead a youth group attached to Stanmore Baptist Church, Harrow, was found guilty of the historic abuse on 25th November 2020 after a nine-day trial. The offences were perpetrated against three boys aged between 10 and 18 years old, with the initial allegation of abuse being reported to police in October 2015. A subsequent police investigation led to officers contacting a further victim in 2017.
Specialist officers from Edgware Child Abuse Investigation Team investigated the allegations and on 26th June 2018 Hardwicke was charged on suspicion of sexual assault.
Detective Constable Nicola Cameron, the investigating officer from the Edgware Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: “Hardwicke took advantage of his young victims’ vulnerability, sexually abusing them on numerous occasions when the opportunities presented themselves. I would like to praise the victims’ courage in reporting what happened to them to police.
“A crime committed over 30 years ago is still a crime. While investigations into non-recent sexual offences can be challenging, we have specially trained officers who will follow up all lines of inquiry, and seek to prosecute when the evidence will support it.”
Bambi Hammond of the Crown Prosecution Service said that Hardwicke "wilfully abused" his position of trust in the church.
She added: "As a church leader Stephen Hardwicke was in a position of trust and he wilfully abused this. He used his position to allow him to commit his crimes against young boys.
"Hardwicke took a special interest in these children's lives. He groomed them and made sure he was the only person they could turn to.
"These heinous crimes have left a long-lasting impact on Hardwicke's victims who have suffered psychological harm as a result of this abuse.
"I hope these convictions go some way in providing a sense of closure to these victims."