Edinburgh man who downloaded over 5000 child abuse photos was allowed to work at Heriot-Watt University until court case

A man who admitted downloading more than 5,000 child abuse images was allowed to return to work at Heriot-Watt University until his court case despite the institution knowing of allegations made against him.

Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 4:55 am

Pablo Souto, 37, downloaded indecent pictures of children between the ages of six months and 16 and pleaded guilty to the charge when he appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court last week. Images included children being raped by adults and men abusing them while performing solo sex acts.

A Heriot-Watt University spokesperson said Souto was suspended when they learned about allegations against him and that, following a “full risk assessment,” he was allowed to return to work on “modified duties” while awaiting the outcome of the criminal case.

The university was asked exactly how Suoto’s duties were modified but they were unable to say.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Pablo Souto downloaded indecent pictures of children between the ages of six months and 16.

It is understood Suoto worked in the ‘residence life’ section at Heriot-Watt University and was responsible for assisting students in their accommodation. The university’s website says duties might include resolving conflicts between flatmates, supporting students having difficulties settling in, or acting as a point of contact for anyone locked out of their room.

Following Souto’s guilty plea last week, the university suspended Souto for a second time.

Lothian MSP, Miles Briggs, said: “Heriot-Watt University were right to suspend their employee when allegations were brought to their attention, however the decision to return him to work whilst awaiting the outcome of a criminal case was wrong.

“Parents of students at Heriot Watt University, many of whom will have recently left school, will want reassurances that Mr Souto will not be returning to work at the university.”

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard previously that police received intelligence of indecent images being downloaded at Souto’s former home in the city’s Sinclair Place. Officers attended the property with a search warrant in June 2020.

Prosecutor Rosie Cook said police seized a laptop belonging to Souto which was forensically examined. The computer was found to have 5,388 indecent images of children stored on the hard drive.

The fiscal said there were 946 Category A images - the most graphic content - along with 1,202 Category B and 3,240 Category C.

Ms Cook said the images featured a range of ages from six-month-old female babies to 16-year-old female teenagers.

Sheriff Daniel Kelly deferred sentence for the preparation of social work reports and placed Souto on the Sex Offenders’ Register for a term still to be determined.

Souto, currently of the city’s Morrison Street, was granted bail and sentence was deferred until August.

His defence lawyer reserved his plea in mitigation for the sentencing hearing next month.

A spokesperson for Heriot-Watt University, said: “The university took all appropriate measures as soon as it was made aware of allegations against one of its employees. This resulted in the individual being suspended while a full risk assessment was undertaken based on the information available at that time.

“After the risk assessment was completed, he was allowed to return to work on modified duties while awaiting the outcome of the criminal case.

“Following the recent court case and the additional details this has brought to light, we have suspended the employee again.”

Heriot-Watt University Student Union has also been contacted for comment.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription at https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/subscriptions.