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Former University Challenge contestant branded a “nasty, perverted little spider” wins bid to have sex crimes convictions quashed

By Rachel Smart

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Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh
Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh

A former University Challenge contestant who was branded a “nasty, perverted little spider” by a sheriff has won his bid to have his sex crimes convictions quashed.

Prosecutors claimed Andrew Newton,31, sent indecent messages to females as young as 12 and attempted to persuade to meet him for sex, jurors at Inverness Sheriff Court heard.

The former St Andrews University Maths student had appeared on the BBC quiz show in 2012 was allegedly found by police to have accessed indecent images online of children.

Newton, of Broxburn, West Lothian, was given a 16 month jail term by Sheriff Ian Cruickshank last July after being convicted by jurors following a trial in the Highland capital.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Cruickshank, who also placed Newton on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years, told him that the "worldwide web" provided people a number of platforms for communication. He said these should be safe spaces for children and teenagers.

He added: "It can be a web where predatory spiders lurk, in order to reach out and trap children. That is what you are, you are a nasty, perverted little spider.”

Newton addressed judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh to argue that he had fallen victim to a miscarriage of justice.

He told judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Matthews and Lady Wise that Sheriff Cruickshank didn’t properly explain the law to jurors in his closing directions.

He told the judges that the sheriff made a series of “misdirections” to the jury and that this could have resulted in him being wrongly convicted for his crimes.

In a written judgment published by the appeal court on Friday, Lady Dorrian upheld the submissions made by Newton.

She wrote: “ In all we are persuaded that these were material misdirections in which the possibility of the jury being misled was sufficiently great as to constitute a miscarriage of justice.

“In these circumstances, the appeal against conviction must succeed, and the appeal against sentence does not arise.”

At proceedings earlier this year, Newton, who appeared from custody, told the appeal court: “There’s a very real possibility of different verdicts being returned in this case if it wasn’t for the misdirections.

“There were ambiguities in the evidence in this particular case.”

Newton was convicted of describing sexual acts to a 12-year-old girl and attempting to induce her to meet him for sexual intercourse, as well as sending her an image of a penis.

Jurors also found him guilty of describing sexual acts and making indecent comments to two other girls, both as young as 14. Prosecutors said he asked one of them to send indecent images and tried to convince her to meet him for sexual intercourse.

During proceedings, his lawyer Graham Mann, told the court that his client was 23 at the time of the crimes.

The charges stated that Newton’s offending took place between 2016 and 2018 at locations in Inverness, elsewhere in Scotland and his home town.

Now Newton has succeeded in having his conviction quashed.

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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