A Three Towns man was caught sending sexual messages to someone he thought was a girl under 16.

Brian McGougan, unbeknownst to him, was actually communicating with an adult decoy, posing as a child online to snare paedophiles.

McGougan sent the messages to the ‘girl’ from his home address in Princes Street in Ardrossan between October 25, 2020 and August 26, 2021.

The 43-year-old appeared in court for sentencing last week after pleading guilty to sending lewd, indecent and sexual messages to a child between 13 and 16 for the purposes of sexual gratification or for humiliating, distressing or alarming the victim.

Not guilty pleas to four other charges were accepted by prosecutors.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

Sentence had been deferred for background social work reports following McGougan’s guilty plea at an earlier hearing – at which he had also been placed on the sex offenders register.

McGougan’s solicitor, Hugh Duncan, told Kilmarnock Sheriff Court: “This is a serious matter.

“There seem to be gaps in his contact with the decoy, which is unusual.”

Asking for a non-custodial sentence, Mr Duncan said that “perhaps alcohol” played a part in his client’s behaviour, and told Sheriff Alistair Watson that McGougan had been attending addiction services and had a learning disability.

He added: “He certainly seems to be doing what he’s supposed to regarding the [sex offender] condition requirements.”

Sheriff Watson told McGougan: “This is a very serious matter, which in my court can easily justify a prison sentence.

“I do have regard to the points made by Mr Duncan, and what the social work reports say.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

“You are clearly a man with significant trouble, particularly with alcohol in relation to the case, and having learning disabilities.

“In this case, while custody is easily justifiable, I can step back and impose a community order.

“It seems to me that with a long term community programme it is more likely there will be no repeat of the conduct in future.”

McGougan was placed under social work supervision as part of a community payback order which will last for 30 months.

He will also have to register as a sex offender during this time.

Court orders were also imposed restricting McGougan’s internet access – which will be monitored by police – and forbidding him from having contact with any child under 16.