A FILM studies student who prowled paths and shopping streets for nearly a year slapping, grabbing and "cupping" the buttocks of schoolgirls and young women has been spared jail after a sheriff ruled he would be "vulnerable" in custody.

Jaden Milne, whose actions were described as "sinister" and "predatory", targeted four girls and young women aged from 11 to 19, leaving some of them terrified, Falkirk Sheriff Court was told.

Milne, 21, sexually assaulted his victims at a bus stop, on a lonely rural path, outside a bank in Stirling, and in a branch of Poundland.

The court heard the first in the series of incidents occurred at 7.20pm on June 21 last year when a 19-year-old woman was waiting for a bus in Alloa Road, Clackmannan.

Prosecutor James Moncrieff said she was alone and listening to music when she was "startled" by Milne who "walked past, grabbed her left buttock, and continued to walk".

Less than a week later, he attacked a 12-year-old girl who was walking on a "remote rural pathway" towards Clackmannan from Alloa. Mr Moncrieff said the girl noticed a man - Milne - acting suspiciously. Then she "became aware of a hand striking her across the buttocks".

Mr Moncrieff said: "Out of instinct she lashed out with her elbow, striking the accused, who ran off."

The quick-thinking girl also took out her phone and recorded him running away. But a few minutes later she saw him following her again.

"Extemely scared" she ran to a friend's house and contacted her mother, who uploaded the pictures she had taken to Facebook. Someone recognised her attacker as Milne, and the police were contacted.

Four months later, Milne struck again, sneaking up behind a 16-year-old girl as she was leaving the Thistles Centre, Stirling.

Mr Moncrieff said she "felt someone cup her bottom".

Realising she was outside the Royal Bank of Scotland she went in and asked the manager to check CCTV, which showed Milne sneaking up behind her. The incident happened in broad daylight at 1.36pm.

The last victim in the series of sexual assaults was a girl aged 11, who "felt a hand grabbing the left hand side of her buttocks" as she browsed phone cases in Poundland, Alloa, about 3pm on May 7 this year.

Mr Moncrieff said: "She was extremely shaken by this unexpected and untoward action".

The incident was witnessed by shop staff, who stopped Milne from leaving, checked CCTV and obtained an image of him, and called police.

He was later arrested.

Milne, of Clackmannan, pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual assault.

Solicitor Charlotte Watt, defending, said he had a porn addiction, but begged for him to be spared jail.

She said: "He fully understands how terrified these girls and young women must have been. He has already served one week on remand, and it was a harrowing experience for him."

She said he had now quit his TV and film studies course, which he had been attending in Glasgow.

Sheriff Maryam Labaki said Milne had displayed "a sinister pattern of predatory behaviour towards young women and girls".

After reading background reports, she sentenced him to a 12 month restriction of liberty order - during which time he will be subject to an 8pm to 7am electronic curfew - plus 150 hours unpaid work. She also placed him on social work supervision for three years.

She told him: "I'm satisfied you suffer from certain vulnerabilities that would make you vulnerable in a custodial setting."