Page last updated at 17:16 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Scottish sex predator student faces prison

Andrew Byrne
Byrne admitted to 32 charges of abuse against children

A student described by prosecutors as one of Scotland's most dangerous sexual predators has admitted 32 charges related to the abuse of children.

Andrew Byrne, 20, used the internet to groom and abuse 19 children, aged between eight and 15, a court heard.

He sexually assaulted some victims and subjected others to indecent behaviour between September 2007 and July 2009.

He was caught during a police operation to snare internet paedophiles. Sentence on Byrne was deferred until next month.

The High Court in Glasgow heard how the microbiology student from Glasgow University abused 11 girls and eight boys from across the UK who were aged between eight and 15 at the time.

Byrne, who lived in Glasgow's Byres Road, met the first girl in September 2007 through the MSN messenger service.

Andrew Byrne has been convicted of some of the most damaging and disturbing crimes that prosecutors ever encounter
Michelle Macleod
Procurator fiscal

He eventually got her to carry out sex acts via a webcam as the youngster thought they were in a "special relationship".

A 13-year-old girl from Manchester then met Byrne through another chat service.

Byrne travelled down twice to meet her in 2008 and 2009 and recorded them being involved in "explicit sexual activity". He later forwarded the images on to nine other people.

Byrne then had sex with two underage girls, aged 13 and 15, in 2008 at a flat in the Glasgow's Bridge Street.

He had sex with another 13-year-old girl after meeting her around Christmas 2008 in Fife.

Around the same time, he met a third 13-year-old on MSN and they had "heavy sexualised chat".

Sexual clip

Byrne later had intercourse with the teenager at his flat in Bridge Street.

During March last year, Byrne got in touch with a boy and girl, both aged 11, who came from Yorkshire.

He was eventually found with a sexual clip of the friends on his laptop.

Byrne then tried to get a 15-year-old girl to meet him for sex, but she repeatedly refused.

Last Easter, he got in touch with a 12-year-old girl on the Bebo social networking site.

He offered her £60 in exchange for sexual intercourse which she declined.

In May, Byrne chatted to a 14-year-old boy from Glasgow about having sex with him.

Soon after he was in regular contact with a 15-year-old who has since been convicted of abusing an eight-year-old boy.

The court heard how Byrne would ask this boy, via webcam, to perform sex acts on the eight-year-old and record it.

Byrne and the 15-year-old also had discussions about the possibility of raping the teenager's former girlfriend.

Indecent images

In June, he arranged to meet a 13-year-old boy from Edinburgh for sex, but the teenager did not appear.

He then had lurid conversations with two young girls on Bebo and MSN. He had similar contact with three boys, aged 13 and 14, about the same time.

Byrne was arrested in July last year during the UK-wide "Operation Defender" led by Central Scotland Police to snare internet paedophiles.

A total of 591 indecent images were discovered, about 60 of which were classified at the worst end of the scale used by the authorities.

Byrne told police that he chatted and arranged to meet children for the purposes of sex.

He admitted downloading "weird stuff" from the internet adding: "I don't know why I keep doing it."

Speaking after Byrne's conviction, Michelle Macleod, area procurator fiscal for Central Scotland, said: "Andrew Byrne has been convicted of some of the most damaging and disturbing crimes that prosecutors ever encountered."

Det Insp 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.

"Byrne's victims were traced in Scotland, throughout the rest of the UK and abroad. This shows that the reach of the internet can easily be exploited, but also indicates that we are committed to dealing with this issue wherever it happens."

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Teenager detained for web abuse
11 Feb 10 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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