A Stevenage teenager who sexually abused younger boys was sentenced to four and a half years’ detention today (Thursday, July 29).

Sam Byrne, now 19, had groomed three boys - aged 12 and 13 - while he hosted Xbox Live video game parties.

St Albans Crown Court heard that Byrne was aged 17 between November 1 and November 15, 2018, when he exchanged messages and paid money into their PayPal accounts in exchange for sexual activity.

He was given a two-year sentence suspended for two years in October last 2020 for 10 offences - and was ordered to abide by the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, which included not having unsupervised contact with anyone under 16.

Prosecutor Gabrielle McAvock said that two days before he was to be sentenced, he stayed at a boy’s house in Stevenage, telling the child’s mother he was only aged 16 - when he was in fact 19.

She said Byrne was drinking vodka and playing on the PlayStation. The 13-year-old went to sleep and woke to find Byrne sexually abusing him.

The boy told his girlfriend who informed their school. The police were called and Byrne was arrested. He made no comment in response to questions.

In a victim personal statement, the 13-year-old said he was “confused, embarrassed, worried, shocked and angry” by what happened. He said he couldn’t trust anyone, had felt used by Byrne, suffered flashbacks and did not like to be alone.

Ms McAvock said Byrne had also breached the Sexual Harm Prevention order on four occasions between October 12 and December 9 last year, when he went babysitting. He also breached the order by contacting a child on social media.

Byrne appeared for sentencing for sexual assault on the boy and five charges of breaching the Sexual Harm Prevention Order. He admitted breaching the terms of the suspended sentence.

Referring to the assault on the sleeping boy, Kate Parker, defending, said: “He was under a great deal of emotional strain. A friend had taken his life that month. He was due to be sentenced (for the earlier offences). He began drinking and that resulted in the assault.”

She said Byrne was “emotionally immature and socially isolated".

She added that the seven months he has spent in custody had not been easy. He had been subjected to abuse, had contracted COVID and has begun self-harming. She said he had received no psychiatric help.

Sentencing him, Judge Stephen Warner said: “A couple of days before you were to be sentenced (for the 10 offences from 2018) and whilst on bail you committed the offence of sexual activity towards the 13-year-old who was befriended by you.”

He said Byrne had made “flagrant breaches” of the Sexual Harm Prevention Order in a matter of days after it had been made.

Byrne must abide by the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for seven years and register as a sex offender indefinitely.