A MAN who admitted sexually abusing four children during the 1970s has been spared jail, after his victims asked a judge to show mercy.

Paul Laxton, formerly from Benson but now living in Reddington Road, Plymouth, was charged with six counts of indecent assault carried out over several years.

The 79-year-old repeatedly abused two of his victims while they were in their early teens and carried out one indecent assault on two other teenagers. Robert Lindford, defending, said before Laxton retired, he was a hard working civil servant who had served in both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.

He said: “He has pleaded guilty to what he did to those children. There has now been a realisation by this man of the damage that he did.”

Mr Lindford added that he hoped the judge could take the wishes of Laxton’s victims into account and suspend any prison sentence. Judge Ian Pringle told the defendant he would take the unusual step of following his barrister’s request after receiving letters from the complainants in the case.

He said: “Sentences cannot be dictated by the victims of crime, because if we just followed their wishes we would not be doing justice.

“But after reading the heartfelt pleas I have decided not to send you to prison.”

Laxton was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, with a requirement for him to be on the sex offenders register for 10 years.