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Uni professor who sexually assaulted male students sentenced

Kevin O'Gorman abused eight men whilst working at Strathclyde University and Heriot-Watt.

By STV News

Published 26 Sep 2019.

A professor who sexually assaulted several young students at two universities has been ordered to carry out unpaid work.

Kevin O'Gorman, who was described as a "master manipulator", abused eight young men whilst working at Strathclyde University in Glasgow and Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh.

The 45-year-old, from Milngavie in East Dunbartonshire, used his position of privilege to carry out the campaign of abuse for eight years between 2006 and 2014.

Passing sentence on Thursday, Sheriff Noble told O'Gorman: "You continue to maintain the position that you advanced at your trial - that whilst you did behave in an inappropriate way, what you did was not criminal.

"Your position differed from those who gave evidence against you - I found the witnesses to be truthful and credible.

"Given the nature of the offences to which you have been convicted of, I have decided that there are other ways of dealing with you other than the imposition of a custodial sentence."

O'Gorman was tagged for six months - in which he will have to remain at home between the hours of 7pm and 7am.

He was handed 240 hours of unpaid work and will be supervised for three years.

In addition, he was also placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for five years.

Police in Edinburgh investigated O'Gorman in 2017 after staff at Heriot-Watt University reported him.

During his trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in August, the jury heard that O'Gorman targeted vulnerable students who hoped to gain entry to advanced degrees.

The sex-attacker managed to convince those that needed help that they couldn't succeed without his assistance.

O'Gorman, was initially charged with a total of 19 charges against 11 young men, but he was acquitted on three of the allegations and convicted on all others.

On Thursday, defence advocate Niall McCluskey told Sheriff Noble that his client suffered from "stress" and "depression" but still maintained he was innocent any wrongdoing.

He added: "He maintains the position advanced at his trial. He continues to deny any criminal activity but expresses regret and remorse for the inappropriate aspects of his behaviour.

"He has recently been prescribed anti-depressants. He is trying to see the positive aspects of his current predicament. He spends his time caring for his mother."

The academic was the director of Heriot-Watt's School of Management and Languages.

One victim told the court that he first met O'Gorman in 2006. The 32-year-old man said that at the time he had suffered from mental health problems and had twice quit university.

During an online conversation with O'Gorman in 2009, the academic asked him about his return to university.

O'Gorman told him he had "screwed up" and would "definitely need to be punished".

The man said he initially thought it was a joke. But O'Gorman asked him where he lived, if he was alone and said he would need to be "belted".

The man said: "I was quite scared. I thought maybe it wasn't a real thing."

When the academic arrived the two sat down and O'Gorman told him to take down his trousers and underwear before hitting him with a belt ten times on the backside.

O'Gorman then hugged the man "fiercely" and said: "I bet it feels good now."

Another victim, now aged 38, told the court that O'Gorman repeatedly manhandled male PhD students and that they developed a "collective coping mechanism".

Another student, aged 24, told of how O'Gorman ordered him to take off his trousers on a Skype video call as "punishment" for not working hard enough.

He said O'Gorman told him: "If you act or behave like a child, you'll be treated like a child."

O'Gorman claimed that he didn't abuse the students and was instead following a "mindfulness technique" similar to the one used by Adam Smith, the 18th century economist.

Following O'Gorman's conviction, Strathclyde University announced it was to hold an independent inquiry into its handling of a complaint made by a former student and the subsequent investigation of that.

Ahead of O'Gorman's sentencing hearing, one of his victims branded him "pathetic" and said the university was "just as guilty for turning a blind eye".

Fraser Blevins, 32, said: "That man is nothing short of a monster who preyed on innocent people but at the same time I can look at him and see him as nothing but weak and pathetic.

"I was only 17 when he groomed and abused me and others for his own sick gratification.

"For me, it's too late for Strathclyde University to say sorry - that would be nothing more than a PR move for them.

"Strathclyde had the chance to deal with things at the time but instead they swept it under the carpet and let O'Gorman move to another uni and gave him a huge pay-off.

"Strathclyde is just as guilty as O'Gorman for turning a blind eye but if they want to do right by victims and assure existing staff and students that their welfare matters, then it will make the full internal review public and not just release a few findings."

Kim Leslie, specialist abuse lawyer at Digby Brown Solicitors, is now investigating Strathclyde University's role in the abuse.

She said: "I have tremendous respect for the courage shown by Fraser and the other survivors who helped prosecute O'Gorman.

"Now the criminal proceedings are concluded we are investigating the role of the university in this disgusting campaign of abuse which affected potentially dozens of young adults but as enquiries are at an early stage it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said: "The safety and wellbeing of our students is always our first priority, and I am determined that we will learn from this case.

"As a university community, we are shocked and appalled by what emerged from the trial, and by behaviours which are totally contrary to our shared values.

"Our first concern is to reach out to those students and alumni affected and offer our support. We have asked the Procurator Fiscal to advise all concerned of the support available, and we encourage anyone affected by this case to contact our Wellbeing Services for support.

"There are questions we must ask about our processes and procedures. I am initiating a Queen's Counsel-led independent inquiry to establish what we knew at the time, what we ought to have known, and what should have been in place to expose such wrongdoing.

"We will accept the findings of this independent inquiry and will adopt the recommendations that emerge."

Ann Marie Dalton-Pillay, secretary of Heriot-Watt University, said: "I want to take this opportunity to commend the brave actions of those who came forward and reported Kevin O'Gorman to the university.

"It is clear Kevin O'Gorman betrayed the trust of everyone at this University and abused his position.

"The safety and wellbeing of all our students and staff is and always will be, our priority and we have robust procedures in place when professional standards are not met.

"We are committed to continually reviewing our policies and, as such, have instructed an independent QC-led inquiry to carry out a review in the pursuit of more stringent processes that protect and support everyone at Heriot-Watt."