A KNIFE thug who mugged four young men in an Irvine underpass and threatened he would take one of the victims’ “face off” has apologised to those he attacked.

But the apology wasn’t enough to spare Dylan Shanks from a prison sentence.

The 23-year-old robbed the group earlier this year, leaving the young men 'frozen with fear' during the terrifying attack.

Shanks appeared for sentencing at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court this week after pleading guilty to charges of assault, robbery and possession of a bladed weapon.

He admitted preying on his victims in a horrifying 20-minute incident in the underpass leading to Bowhouse Rise, at Middleton Road, on the night of February 26.

Sentence had been deferred in order for a background social work report to be prepared.

Defence solicitor Terry Gallanagh told Sheriff Alistair Watson: "Mr Shanks accepted his responsibility and I can say he has always been positive about pleading guilty. The plea was intimated at an early stage and he was keen to resolve the petition.

"The reference [in the background report] that he has not showed appropriate contrition or empathy does not carry significant weight in my dealing with him.

“He regrets his actions and he feels sorry for the victims who did not deserve to be treated in this manner.”

"These are significant offences that will attract a period in custody.

"Mr Shanks has asked that I publicly apologise to those affected by his misconduct."

Procurator fiscal depute Craig Wainwright had told an earlier hearing how the victims had reached the underpass, which was in darkness, when Shanks – who was on bail at the time - came up behind them and asked for a cigarette.

Mr Wainwright said: “[Shanks] seized [the complainer’s] collar, taking a Stanley knife from his pocket and holding it to [the complainer's] cheek.”

Shanks then threatened: “Give me all your clothing or I’ll take the face off you.”

Mr Wainwright continued: “All froze with fear. He went to each of them, who emptied their pockets one by one, handing over the items, fearing what he would do if they didn’t comply.”

Shanks stole a mobile phone, house keys, earphones and items of clothing, including a pair of trainers from the male he held the blade to - also taking an Apple smart watch, £7 in cash and various items of clothing from the second.

The third named victim was robbed of a mobile phone, keys, bank card, an ID, two guitar capos, earphones and various items of clothing, while a bag pack, head torch and various items of clothing were stolen from the fourth victim.

Mr Wainwright added: “He asked for the items to be filled into the backpack. In total the incident lasted 20 minutes. The accused held the Stanley knife throughout.

“He said ‘right, that’ll do lads - don’t call the polis or I’ll get the troops on you’."

Police were contacted after the victims returned home, and Shanks was traced at the address of his partner, where cops had to force entry to the property before he was cautioned and charged.

Mr Wainwright added: "They recovered a number of items identified as belonging to the complainers. All were recovered except the £7 in cash."

At this week’s sentencing hearing, Sheriff Watson told Shanks: "Given your record, and the grave nature of this offence, only a custodial sentence of a significant length will meet the need for public protection and punishment in this case.

"Given you were 22 years of age at the time, that does, in my view, justify reduction."

Shanks, who has been in custody since February, was jailed for two years – reduced by one year because of his age and by a further year because of his early guilty plea.

He will also be placed on a supervised release order for 12 months on leaving prison.