Victims get 'justice they deserve' as Hayling Island rapist and paedophile is jailed for 26 years

Gerald Hedges, 61, of Southwood Road, Hayling Island, at Portsmouth Crown Court before his trial began in July. Picture: Habibur Rahman
Gerald Hedges, 61, of Southwood Road, Hayling Island, at Portsmouth Crown Court before his trial began in July. Picture: Habibur Rahman
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VICTIMS of a manipulative rapist and paedophile who was only caught when he tried to lure a fictional eight-year-old girl into sex online watched on as he was jailed for 26 years. 

Twisted Gerald Hedges, 61, smirked as he was sent down by judge Timothy Mousley QC at Portsmouth Crown Court on Tuesday. 

A jury unanimously found him guilty on July 22 of sexually abusing two young girls and raping two women over a period of 15 years. 

The acts went undetected until Hedges, a naturist of Southwood Road, Hayling Island, was stung trying to coax a young girl into sex in 2017.

An undercover cop posed as the parent of a child in the online forum, Disabled Chat UK, telling Hedges the girl had ‘type 21 Down’ and a mental age of five

Statements read by prosecutor Jodie Mittell as Hedges was sentenced told of the scarring impact his heinous crimes had on his victims. 

One has nightmares and battles ‘huge’ anxiety triggered by whiskey – which Hedges used to drink – and the sight of ‘overweight older men’. 

‘I put this down to what happened in the past,' her statement said. 

‘When I wake up startled I’m scared there is someone in my bedroom – this is definitely a flashback.’ 

She added: ‘I just need closure and to feel safe again. At the moment I just feel sick all the time and totally anxious.’ 

Another said the ways Hedges treated her have ‘affected her in different ways her whole life’. 

‘I felt and still do feel ashamed and dirty,’ she said. 

‘I feel alone, I always have, and I have never felt like I fitted anywhere.’ 

Two more statements told how Hedges' crimes still cause constant nausea, with one victim wishing she ‘stuck up for herself’ during the abuse. 

Sentencing, Mr Mousley said Hedges ‘lacked the courage' to admit what he did – putting his victims through the ‘enormous’ stress of a trial. 

‘I dare say they will probably never fully recover or reach a stage when they feel safe,’ he said. 

‘One can only hope now we have come to the stage where you are going to be sentenced there will be some degree of closure.’

Hedges has been banned from working with children and given an ‘indefinite' Sexual Harm Prevention Order. 

His laptop, tablet and phone, which he used for grooming, will all be destroyed. 

 ‘Victims finally get the justice they deserve’ 

A POLICE constable involved in the probe into Hedges’ crimes has praised ‘brave’ victims for speaking out and getting the ‘justice they deserve’. 

Deborah Symes watched as Hampshire Constabulary’s two-year investigation resulted in a 26-year jail term last week. 

‘No doubt it has been especially difficult having to revisit and disclose the most distressing time of their life, stand up in court to give evidence, and tell their story in front of a jury of strangers,' she said. 

‘Hedges is a dangerous man capable of online child abuse, as well as contact sex offences involving both adults and children.

‘The contact offences may never have come to light if it wasn’t for the initial police investigation into his online activity.

‘It was this activity which led to us identifying and reaching out to the complainants in this case, and I truly believe they would never have disclosed what had happened to them if this hadn’t have happened.

‘They had lived with this and bottled it up for nearly 20 years while Hedges walked free.

‘Now, after all this time, they will get the justice they deserve.’