A HOMELESS teenager was beaten and robbed while sleeping rough on the streets of Clackmannanshire.

The youngster said he had become so worried for his own safety that he felt he had to carry a knife for protection.

Earlier this week, a court heard that he experienced terrible difficulties in his personal life and was ejected from his foster home shortly after turning 16.

However, his troubles only came to the attention of police when a frightened member of the public saw him sleeping outside, with a knife in his hand.

The teen, who cannot be named due to legal reasons, appeared from custody at Alloa Sheriff on Monday, March 4, where he pleaded guilty to an offence of possessing a bladed article in public without a reasonable excuse.

However, in sentencing the presiding sheriff recognised his need for support, as opposed to punishment.

During the hearing, the young man's lawyer gave a harrowing account which detailed the reasons for his client's situation.

The youngster, who has no previous convictions, was on the streets with nowhere to live, after he was kicked out by his foster carers.

Despite spending time in homeless accommodation in Sauchie, he opted to return to sleeping rough because of problems with other residents.

But repeated assaults and muggings caused him to fear for his safety so much that he started carrying a knife "for protection".

The court heard that, on March 2 at Ormiston Drive in Alloa, a woman spotted him as he slept outside and approached him.

Susannah Hutchison, prosecuting, said: "She noticed he was holding a knife in his hand.

"She asked if he was okay, but he didn't reply so she returned home and contacted police officers."

After police then traced the teen and he was cautioned and charged.

The prosecutor continued: "He informed officers which pocket the knife was in, and they recovered it.

"It was a black handled kitchen knife with a blade approximately 4.5 inches."

She added that the accused went on to tell officers: "I'm sorry, I had it for protection."

The court was then told how the young man ended up being hauled before a sheriff by his defence agent, Jim Savage.

He said: "He tells me he is not from this area, but was in care up until his 16th birthday.

"After turning 16 he was told to leave his foster carers'.

"He has had homeless accommodation which he finds difficult, and he is not alone in finding the accommodation difficult.

"He finds Hallpark particularly difficult: you're not allowed guests in your room and other residents make things very difficult for people there sometimes.

"He has opted not to remain in the accommodation; this resulted in him spending some nights sofa surfing and on the streets.

"Having been on the streets, he has been the subject of assaults and had money taken from him."

It was against that background that the teenager ended up before the court for being in possession of a knife.

The solicitor then asked the sheriff to deal with the matter on the day, as the youngster had signed up for the army and was due to start this weekend.

Sheriff David Mackie sympathised with the young man's situation, whilst also reminding him of the seriousness of the offence.

He said: "I am sorry you find yourself in court.

"You're learning the hard way that simply carrying a knife on you is a serious offence.

"You can't afford a fine, and I think the prospect of admission to the army should not be harmed because you need more support, rather than punishment."

The sheriff then admonished the teenager.