A FORMER Wee County man who sexually abused a young schoolgirl has escaped a prison sentence because of his "service" of his country and community.

Robert Imrie previously admitted carrying out the attack more than 30 years ago at a property in Clackmannanshire.

His victim was aged between 10 and 12 at the time but is said to still suffering from the "last impacting" of the incident.

While on leave from the army, Imrie lay on top of her, exposed himself, straddled her on the floor, and induced her to perform a sexual act.

He pleaded guilty to using lewd, indecent, and libidinous practices and behaviour towards the young girl on a date between January 1983 and January 1985.

Imrie, formerly of Sauchie, returned to Falkirk Sheriff Court for sentencing today (Thursday, March 16), but was spared imprisonment.

Sheriff Craig Caldwell made note of his service to his country in the armed forces and to the community as a prison guard later in life.

Imrie's advocate Tony Lenehan said his client had been "naive" and had offended as a result of being forced to watch sexual taboos being broken as a young serviceman.

He said: "Before this single event happened, Mr Imrie went off to join the army.

"During the earliest time of his service in the army, he suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of another.

"It would be reasonable to infer that that forced witnessing of the breaking of taboos from his good up-bringing, may very well have played into his own aberration in breaking those taboos.

"He has spent the entirety of his working life either in the service of this country or in the service of the community.

"He carried out, for about a third of a century, good positive work without offending."

Mr Lenehan claimed that if Imrie, now 57, was "seized by some underlying, deviant interest" he would not have been of "ordinary good character" for so long after the incident.

He added: "There was a naivety about it, in that there wasn't any attempt to enforce the silence of the victim."

The lawyer asked the court to form the view that there was no requirement in Imrie's case for the imposition of a custodial sentence and "justice would be served" by a different option.

Imrie, currently of Barrhill, Ayrshire, insisted he had abused the girl on only one occasion, but in a background report, referred to in court, social workers who interviewed him and carried out a risk assessment ranked Imrie as at moderate risk of re-offending.

Sheriff Caldwell said he did not accept the social workers' assessment, and ordered Imrie to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work as an alternative to jail.

He said: "I'm not impressed by this report, which makes many observations which don't seem to me to be remotely born out by the facts."

He told Imrie: "It seems to me that you are at low, if not no, risk of re-offending.

"I agree with a great deal of what your counsel has said.

"Nonetheless, it doesn't follow that there's a diminution in my mind of the gravity of this offence. This was a serious offence, however fleeting, however long ago.

"It has had a very considerable impact on the victim for over 30 years.

"I have a victim impact statement from the complainer, and it seems to me that she has suffered significantly over the years.

"But having considered all the relevant matters, notwithstanding the gravity of the matter, and taking into account your obvious good character both before and since this offence, and your service to your country and your community, it seems to me this can be dealt with other than by the imposition of a custodial sentence."

In addition to the unpaid work order, Imrie was placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for five years.