A FORMER North Ayrshire Council youth worker, who sexually assaulted young women by pretending to carry out medical checks on them with a stethoscope, has dodged a jail term. 

Paul Gillespie, of Inverclyde View in Largs, returned to Kilmarnock Sheriff Court today for sentencing, having previously been found guilty of three charges of sexual assault. 

Gillespie carried out attacks across North Ayrshire on young women who trusted him. 

One of his victims was just 15.

The assaults took place while between November 2015 and December 2016 in Ardrossan, Irvine, Stevenston, and elsewhere while Gillespie was giving the youngsters lifts, often in a North Ayrshire Council vehicle.

Sentence had been deferred for reports and today, the award-winning youth worker, returned to court to hear his fate.

Defence solicitor Neil McPherson acknowledged the seriousness of the offences and the impact they would have had on the victims, but questioned the motives of one of the witnesses. 

He suggested the former colleague of Gillespie might have been seeking "payback" after he had made a complaint about her at work.

Mr McPherson said: "His relationship with senior members of staff was very poor and he had made complaints." 

He then added that perhaps "this was some kind of payback for that and that's a worrying aspect."

Mr McPherson said that his client's social work report suggested "a young man who has appeared to do his best in life".

He added: "Clearly, this is a young man who has gone through life with difficulties.

"In other areas of life he appears to be hard working and quite serious minded."

Mr McPherson also highlighted the "repercussions" Gillespie's conviction will have on his professional life.

He said: "The report I think implies that until these matters came to light, Paul Gillespie made the most of himself despite difficulties he had experienced academically and perhaps socially. 

"Apart from the effects of this conviction - which are significant - he will have to revisit everything."

But Sheriff Michael Hanlon said: "I've taken into account what's been said on your behalf by Mr McPherson and I have to say this is a serious matter and an appalling breach of trust of the young ladies who had been travelling and had confided in you. 

"I do find the lack of remorse and the suggestion in the report slightly concerning. I have to take into account your age and your lack of record. It's these factors that are making me step back from a custodial sentence."

Sheriff Hanlon sentenced Gillespie to 300 hours of unpaid work to be carried out within six months and two years supervision. 

He also placed him on a Conduct Requirement to attend the Moving Forward, Making Changes Programme for two years and prohibited him from having any contact, unless unavoidable, with females under the age of 17. 

Sheriff Hanlon also added that Disclosure Scotland would be informed to consider Gillespie as "somebody unsuitable for working with young females".