A CLACKS man who plied a 14-year-old girl with alcohol before raping her against a wall near a Stirling play park was jailed last week.

On Wednesday, March 2, Paul Cunningham, 35, was sentenced at the High Court in Livingston to eight years' imprisonment for the vile attack.

He appeared before judge Lord Weir after being found guilty of the crime by the unanimous verdict of a jury at the High Court in Stirling last month.

The court heard Cunningham had been asked to buy drink on behalf of the girl and some of her friends in Stirling City Centre, but then went with them to the Darnley Park swing park in the city's historic Top of the Town area.

He also bought a bottle of Cactus Jack's schnapps and gave some to his victim.

The girl told investigators she felt uncomfortable about Cunningham remaining with them because he was an adult, and then as they sat near a climbing frame he started wiping the grass off their thighs.

She said: "He started saying 'you're fit' and everything, 'you're so fit'.

"It made me really uncomfortable."

She said she told Cunningham she was only 14, but he said he "didn't care".

She said: "He kissed me and put his tongue in my mouth, and telt me not to tell anyone.

"He took me round a corner and pulled my leggings down, and as I was standing there was a wall behind me."

Cunningham then raped before she went back to her friends and burst into tears, later telling her grandmother she had been raped.

The accused, who had given the girl his name and said he had a son of 16, was later arrested.

The incident occurred on September 18, 2020.

Cunningham, of Clackmannan, who told the girl he was originally from Glasgow, denied rape and claimed the girl had consented.

He said he believed she was 17.

In February, after a five-day trial, he had showed no emotion as the jury found him guilty of raping the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, after supplying her with alcohol and while she was intoxicated and incapable of giving or withholding consent.

The verdict was unanimous and, in addition to the jail term, he was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

After he was sentenced, DS Craig Faulds, from Forth Valley's Public Protection Unit, said: "Paul Cunningham has been found guilty of a horrific offence against a young girl and he will now be held accountable for his actions.

"I wish to pay tribute to the victim's courage and resolve and for her incredible bravery in talking about her experience at the hands of this man.

"I hope that hearing Cunningham has been jailed for eight years will provide her some comfort that he can no longer inflict this pain on any other girls or women.

"Police Scotland will always investigate such kinds of serious offences as they are reported to us.

"We will tirelessly pursue perpetrators to disrupt their activities while also remaining committed to protecting and supporting victims, as well as those at risk of becoming victims in our communities.

"I would encourage anyone who has suffered this type of despicable abuse to report it to Police Scotland."