A REPTILE sanctuary boss who seduced his 15-year-old work experience student then struck up a four year relationship with her has been jailed.

Andrew Browne founded Swindon Reptile Rescue, based in Highworth, in 2001. The charity rehomed animals and attended events giving young people the chance to handle snakes and lizards.

The 53-year-old was approached by his victim’s mum in late 2011 asking whether her daughter, then aged 14, could come to his charity for a two week work experience placement.

She was reassured by Browne, who said he had a criminal record check and experience of working with vulnerable young people.

Before the two-week placement in spring 2012 he filled in a five-page official form and would have been aware of his student’s mental health issues.

The girl continued to volunteer at the charity once the placement ended. His victim looked up to him, treating him as a kind of father figure.

On one occasion she went missing from home. Her worried mum texted her, saying she would go to the police if the girl did not pick up the phone.

It transpired the teen – then 15 – was down the road from the family home in Browne’s car. The girl was distraught, telling her mother she did not want to go home.

Browne said she could stay on his sofa. But she spent the night in his bed. Initially the man and the teen were separated by bedding, but he moved closer during the night and attempted to have sex with her. He later claimed he had a condition that meant he was sexually active during his sleep.

The pair had six sexual encounters in the six months between then and when the girl turned 16. Browne took a number of sexually explicit photographs of her and downloaded others that she had sent him.

An on-off relationship continued for between three and four years.

Prosecutor Tessa Hingston said that relationship had been turbulent, with the girl’s mother hearing the couple arguing over the phone.

The teen’s mental health had suffered during and particularly once the relationship ended. She had made an attempt on her own life.


Browne, of Eastrop, Highworth, pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a child, taking and making indecent images of children and possession of extreme pornographic images depicting sexual activity with animals.

Defending, Nadia Chbat said her client was remorseful and had never intended to fall in love with someone 30 years his junior. “Mr Browne understands he is likely to have a significant custodial sentence imposed on him today as a punishment for what happened and he understands whatever custodial sentence you impose on him cannot mend the damage to the victim and her family.”

She added: “He does deeply regret the harm he has caused her and her family.”

Judge slams reptile man

Jailing Browne for six years Judge Jason Taylor QC said the impact upon his victim had been significant.

“She worries that she will always have emotional flashbacks, never fully recovering. Only time will tell,” he said.

“You caused that. You were the adult. You had a responsibility to protect her from herself when she was at her lowest ebb. Instead you chose to abuse the trust she placed in you as a father figure.

“You kept this secret over three to four years and that must have involved significant planning and manipulation. You groomed her. You recorded and retained images.

“She was not your only volunteers and you must have targeted her to some degree because of her depression and anxiety making her vulnerable to your advances.”

He acknowledged Browne was remorseful and had not used his animals as a lure to groom children.

The judge made a restraining order banning Browne from contacting his victim or her mother. That will last until further order.