Instructor spared jail after sexually assaulting schoolgirls

The trial took place at Stirling Sheriff Court
The trial took place at Stirling Sheriff Court

A Duke of Edinburgh scheme instructor who sexually assaulted two schoolgirls on Bronze Award expeditions was spared jail after his lawyer told a court the conviction had cost him his job and might lose him his house.

Graham Stirling, 56, assaulted his first victim, then 15, during an overnight expedition in June 2013. As she squatted on her haunches looking at tadpoles, he came up behind her and “lingeringly” touched her bottom.

He was suspended, but then went on to grab another schoolgirl’s bottom on a DofE expedition three years later, while “adjusting her rucksack”.

It emerged at his trial, earlier this month that he had been allowed to carry on volunteering after just a few weeks’ ban, prompting parents to call for an inquiry into the debacle, which one said showed an education authority’s child protection procedures to be “seriously flawed”.

Stirling’s lawyer, Mike Lowrie, said the electrical engineer had been suspended by his employers, Scottish Power, immediately after his conviction, and had since resigned.

Mr Lowrie said: “He believes that given this conviction, and his age, further employment will be hard to come by.”

He said that Stirling’s home might be at risk, because though his wife worked her income was limited, and “there may be various other impacts as well”.

He added: “He is assessed as at low risk of sexual recidivism.”

Sheriff William Gilchrist placed Stirling, a father of three grown-up daughters and a first offender, on social work supervision for 12 months under a community payback order, and on the sex offenders register for the same period.

He told him: “You were convicted of a serious charge, although it is at the lower end of the scale of this type of offence.

“Having regard to your lack of previous convictions, and the fact that you are assessed as being at low risk of repeating such an offence, and also having regard to the other serious consequences for you of conviction, I am satisfied that I can deal with this by way of a community payback order.”

Stirling left court with his family and solicitor without commenting.

After the trial, a Stirling Council spokesman said: “Mr Stirling was immediately suspended from volunteer duties. The council continually reviews its child protection safeguarding procedures to ensure the highest safety standards are maintained for the children in our care.”