AN INVERKEITHING ice cream and cakes shop owner who engaged in sexual activity with a 14-year-old schoolgirl after grooming her for months has avoided a jail sentence.

Sean McGowan, 38, from Glenrothes, was found guilty after a trial at Dunfermline Sheriff Court in October and returned for sentencing on Thursday.

His Inverkeithing business, ‘Catered With Love’, was closed down after protests outside the shop when his actions came to light in the local community.

For more than two months, McGowan groomed the girl, groped and kissed her, asked her to send him naked photos of herself and said he wanted to have sex with her.

One of the messages he sent stated: “You could get me in a lot of bother LOL” and another read: “It could get me jailed.”

However, McGowan avoided a prison sentence and was instead ordered to do unpaid work.

Sheriff David Hall imposed a community payback order with two years of supervision and 240 hours of unpaid work.

McGowan was also put on the sex offenders’ register for two years.

Other messages McGowan had sent were about him not having boxers on and asking to see naked photos of her.

After the trial, McGowan was found of a charge that between March 16 and May 26, 2020, at ‘Catered With Love’, King Street, Inverkeithing, a location at South Queensferry and elsewhere, he engaged in sexual activity with a girl then aged 14, by kissing her repeatedly, touching her on the body, touching her on the buttocks, and slapping her on the buttocks.

He also sent her sexual written communications, asked repeatedly that she send him naked images of her buttocks and told her repeatedly that he wanted her to be the person she lost her virginity to.

The girl’s mum became concerned over her daughter’s behaviour as she became more secretive, especially about what was on her phone.

When the mum checked the phone, she discovered the messages from McGowan and the police were contacted.

In his evidence, McGowan said when the messages he had sent were read out in court he “felt very uncomfortable”.

However, he claimed: “There was nothing untoward. It was all just in a friendly manner. Just a bit of banter and jokes. It wasn’t sexual.”

He said of his texts about not wearing boxer shorts, “It wasn’t appropriate. I can’t deny that but it wasn’t sexual.”

In her evidence, the girl said she had sent him naked photos but McGowan denied this. She also said he used code words in his messages such as “stickers” which meant kisses.

McGowan, formerly of Auchtermuchty, now of Earlston Way, Macedonia, Glenrothes, told the court he had lost his business as a result of a “witch-hunt” against him, including on social media.

Sheriff David Hall told McGowan he rejected his evidence and found the young girl to be a “credible and reliable witness”.

‘Catered with Love’ was a shop specialising in waffles, crepes, milkshakes, pick ‘n’ mix, pancakes, churros, cakes and 30 different flavours of ice cream.

The shop grew out of a catering business which saw McGowan and his business partner turning out up to 500 cheesecakes a week.

The business also catered for weddings, functions, birthdays and anniversaries.