Worried parents have demanded to know how a “predatory paedophile” got a job teaching young children to swim at public pools.
Serial rapist Gavin Scoular was a junior member of a swimming club and working towards his coaching qualifications when he groomed and attacked some of his victims. The club organised sessions for its members at Portobello Swim Centre and The Royal Commonwealth Pool.
Scoular, 23, is facing a life sentence after being convicted on Thursday of raping five young women – three of them underage – as well as grooming and sexually abusing them. He is already serving a four-and-a-half year sentence imposed in 2014 for similar crimes.
A mum whose daughter attended Scoular’s swimming lessons at the Commonwealth Pool seven years ago said she was shocked to hear he was grooming and raping underage girls at the same time. The woman, who did not want to be named, said: “You have to ask how someone like this managed to escape detection for so long.”
Scoular was working as an assistant coach for the private club, a role in which he would not be permitted to spend time alone with the young swimmers, at the time of the offences.
He was never employed by Edinburgh Leisure, the arms-length company set up in 1998 by The City of Edinburgh Council to run all the capital’s pools.
However, he is understood to have carried out coaching for a swimming club which hired the pools from Edinburgh Leisure and would have been legally responsible for vetting its own coaches.
Scoular originally faced 132 charges against 100 separate girls and young women. He went to trial on 34 charges involving eight complainers and was convicted of 27 offences.
The fact so many children were involved and Scoular’s conviction at the High Court in Livingston was his second means it ranks as Scotland’s worst ever “online grooming” case.
He used Facebook, SnapChat and Skype to befriend schoolgirls online, chatting innocently – sometimes for weeks – to win their trust.
A jury heard he pestered and cajoled his victims into sending him sexual photos of themselves and threatened to post the pictures on the web “for all the world to see”.
His blackmail tactics forced them into meeting him in person so he could abuse and brutally rape them.
Prosecutor Stephen Borthwick said Scoular was a “predatory paedophile” and that all the witnesses had given almost identical accounts of what he had done.
Mr Borthwick said: “Gavin Scoular indulged in sexualised conversation with them knowing full well they were under the age of 16, under the age of consent.
“He asked all of them to show him pictures of their naked body. In some cases he asked them to send him pictures of their naked bodies and some of the girls went along with that.
“We’ve heard how he used those images as a method to control their behaviour, to get them to do what he wanted.
“In each case he moved on to meeting up with the girls. By his own admission he met up with them for one reason; engaging in unlawful sexual behaviour.”
The jury heard Scoular told two of his victims that he worked as a lifeguard at council swimming pools teaching underage children to swim and he met them outside his places of work
Giving evidence in his own defence, Scoular claimed each of the witnesses had told “appalling lies” about him.
He insisted all the girls who testified against him had consented to have sex with him.
Scoular said he had been “sexually attracted to young girls back then”, but claimed he now felt “horrible” about it. He added: “I know what I’ve done was wrong.”
Mary Sharpe, chief executive of campaign group The Reward Foundation, said online predators were able to exploit natural curiosity of young adolescents.
She said messaging apps allowed groomers to take advantage of the internet’s ‘secretive nature’ and fed young women a “fairytale”.
Ms Sharpe highlighted concerns that celebrities like Kim Kardashian and programmes like Love Island and Celebrity Big Brother made young women think it was acceptable to be sexual.
“Being seen to be sexual is common in society today and it is making it very easy for men to pick up young women,” she said. “It’s the culture that is making them groomed to be more sexual.”
She said young girls liked to feel attractive and felt gratified when approached by men like Scoular online.
She stressed parents had a responsibility to actively educate themselves about what their children were doing on social media and monitor how much time they were spending on their smart phones.
Judge Lord Summers said he was considering calling for a risk assessment with a view to imposing a life-long restriction order on Scoular.
He deferred sentence until September 19 at the High Court in Edinburgh for a criminal justice social work report. He added Scoular’s name to the sex offenders register for a second time.