A man who denied behaving indecently towards two young girls who weeded his vegetable plot escaped jail when he appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Monday.
John Millarkie, 50, of Hoswick, Sandwick, was instead ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and will stay on the sex offenders’ register for five years. It is also to be recommended that he should be placed on a list of people who are not allowed to work with children under 16.
During his trial last month Millarkie had consistently denied using lewd and libidinous practices towards the girls, aged 11 and 12, during last year’s summer holidays.
The girls had claimed in four hours of evidence via a video link that he had asked one of them to pose for a photo in her swimming costume and stroked her leg and underneath her clothing. The other said he had offered her £10 to take off her top and allow him to massage her front and back.
Millarkie branded their evidence “lies”, saying he would never do anything to children and could not have offered money as he never carried any on him. However, sheriff Philip Mann found him guilty on both charges.
In court on Monday defence solicitor Mark Lovie said that the stress of the case was having an adverse effect on Millarkie’s family, especially his wife, who would find it difficult in her employment.
Mr Lovie said Millarkie had a good work record and had supported his wife through serious illness, and was “extremely apprehensive” about the “ultimate sanction” the sheriff could impose.
Handing down sentence, sheriff Mann said the two offences were serious and had brought shame on Millarkie and his family.
However, the sheriff said he had not detected that the girls had suffered “trauma” or psychological damage, although this could manifest itself later. He could have jailed Millarkie, he said, even though it was a first offence and at the lower end of the scale. But he was influenced by the fact that the girls had approached Millarkie looking for work – there was no evidence he had set out to groom them.
Sheriff Mann said the public interest would not be served by sending Millarkie to prison and ordered him to do community service as a “direct alternative”. If he fails to comply with the conditions he will be re-sentenced and go to prison.