A Glasgow University Student has pled guilty to 32 charges related to the sexual abuse of children .
Andrew Byrne, 20, submitted his guilty pleas at the High Court in Glasgow on February 11.
The court heard that Byrne used the internet to groom children aged between nine and sixteen years and manipulate them into vulnerable situations where some were subjected to indecent behaviour and sexually assaulted.
Byrne also had unlawful sexual intercourse with several of his young victims. 591 indecent images were found in Byrne’s possession, around sixty of which were classed in the worst category.
Byrne enrolled at Glasgow University in 2007 and was studying Microbiology until his arrest. Upon conviction of a serious crime, the University has the right to act immediately according to its disciplinary code and Byrne is therefore no longer a student at Glasgow.
A student who shared a flat with Byrne in 2007, the year in which he began offending, said that the news came as a shock.
“It took a while to sink in […] He was a weird guy but you don’t expect that sort of thing from anyone.
“The funny thing was, considering what was on it, he was okay with me using his computer once when my laptop had broken.”
The student, who asked to remain anonymous, remembered Byrne as seeming “odd” and has not had contact with him since October 2008.
Byrne was caught under Operation Defender, a large scale major inquiry led by Central Scotland Police working in close co-operation with the National Sexual Crimes Unit, based at the Crown Office, and the Area Sexual Crime Unit in Stirling.
The investigation has so far resulted in the removal of a number of highly vulnerable children throughout the United Kingdom from the danger presented by sexual predators like
Byrne who use the internet to gain access to their victims.
It was through Operation Defender that the police were able to trace Byrne’s victims in Scotland, throughout the rest of the UK and also abroad.
Detective Inspector Charlie Mitchell, of Central Scotland Police, said: “Andrew Byrne was a prolific offender against young teens and children who he met on the internet using chat rooms.
“He had multiple victims, both boys and girls, who he groomed systematically over periods of time, committed offences against online and in some cases went on to meet and sexually abuse.
“Offenders such as Byrne exploit young people’s use of the Internet and social networking for their own sexual gratification.
“Our focus is on stopping that exploitation and raising awareness of the need for safety online amongst young people and parents.”
Speaking after the conviction, Michelle Macleod, Area Procurator Fiscal for Central Scotland, said: “Today Andrew Byrne has been convicted of some of the most damaging and disturbing crimes that prosecutors ever encounter.
“While using the internet to seek out his young victims, he sought to abuse and exploit more than twenty children, without any regard to their age, all for the purpose of fulfilling his own sexual gratification.”
After pleading guilty to the charges, Byrne was remanded in custody and is due to be sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh on March 22.