Top Student Jailed Over Sex Attacks

12 February 2015, 12:27 | Updated: 12 February 2015, 12:28

An award-winning PhD student who sexually assaulted two women in "terrifying'' attacks has been jailed for five years.

Pasquale Galianni, 31, carried out the attacks in St Andrews in November 2013 and April 2014 when he was an astronomy student at the town's university.

Sentencing Galianni at the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Burns said he had a "disturbing interest in voyeurism'' which led him to "follow and molest'' young women.

He jailed Galianni and also ordered him to serve an extended sentence of two years, which means he will be monitored and supervised for that period upon release.

Galianni had completed 95% of his PhD at the time of the assaults but has since been expelled from the university and has not been allowed to complete his thesis.

In the first attack on November 28 2013, he sexually assaulted a woman near halls of residence in North Haugh, where he dragged her into undergrowth, pinned her to the ground and tried to remove her tights and underwear.

He ran off after she screamed, the court heard.

In the second incident on April 10 last year, he sexually assaulted another woman in North Haugh, seizing hold of her, placing his hand between her legs and grabbing her buttock.

He admitted both charges halfway through his trial at the High Court in Glasgow, where he was cleared of a third charge of raping a woman at a flat in the town.

Sentencing him, Lord Burns said: "These girls were attacked while walking alone near their hall of residence. They were subjected to brief but terrifying sexual assaults.

"Women in this country are entitled to expect that they can walk safely in our streets without being subjected to such attacks.''

Galianni had previously been convicted for a sex offence in Germany, the court heard.

Lord Burns said: "It is clear that you have a disturbing interest in voyeurism that leads you to follow and molest young girls.

"You have a degree of insight into your problems and have support from your parents and girlfriend but you don't seem to have any ability to control or correct this flaw in your character.''

The 31-year-old was sentenced to two years and six months for each charge, to be served consecutively.

In 2013, Galianni was awarded the Cormack Prize of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for the best journal paper by a research student in astronomy at a Scottish university.

He had been working on testing cosmological models of dark matter versus modified gravity (MOND) in the first part of his PhD.

His defence advocate Murray Macara QC said: "He had completed about 95% of his PhD and anticipated completing his PhD within a month of these offences.

"As a result he has been expelled from St Andrews and has lost the opportunity of doing a PhD at St Andrews.

"He is an extremely gifted individual, very, very intelligent. This flaw in his character has had an absolutely catastrophic effect on his career.''

He said that his client's parents and partner are aware of his problems and are supportive of him.

Galianni has been placed on the sex offenders register.

The senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Michelle Johnson, said: "I would like to thank all the young women who came forward and would commend their courage in reporting these incidents to police. Their bravery allowed us to launch an investigation leading to the capture of this sexual predator and to prevent him from further attacks on women.

"The public response to our UK wide appeal for information greatly assisted in identifying this man. We would like to thank both the public and the media for their help.

"Tackling sexual crime is a priority for Police Scotland. The National Rape Taskforce and rape investigation units across Scotland work with partners to share information and to ensure the effective investigation of all sexual crimes reported to the police.

"Our approach to tackling sexual crime is victim focused and we work with partners to ensure that people receive the support they need, when they need it. We would encourage anyone subjected to a serious sexual assault to contact Police Scotland. We will listen and we will investigate.''