A SENIOR lawyer has urged appeal judges to impose a harsher sentence on a sex offender who sexually assaulted a little girl and sent her WhatsApp messages calling her his “girlfriend”.

John Boyd, 54, was given a three-year supervision term in October last year after pleading guilty to abusing a 10-year-old girl between June and August 2019.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard how Boyd had two previous convictions for offences involving girls aged 10 and 15, one dating from 2001.

The dad of two admitted sending sexual written communications via text and WhatsApp to a child under 13 between June 28 and August 5, 2019, and asking for photos of her.

The HGV driver, of Prestonpans, further pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the girl.

Despite his previous offending, Sheriff John Mundy handed Boyd a three-year community payback order and placed him on the sex offenders' register for the same period of time.

This prompted prosecution lawyers to go to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh on Friday to ask judges there to quash the "unduly lenient" sentence.

Ashley Edwards QC told judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Pentland and Lord Menzies that Sheriff Mundy didn’t apply the correct legal tests when deciding what sentence to impose on him.

She added: “To be unduly lenient, a sentence must fall outside the range of sentences which the judge at first instance, when applying his mind to all relevant actors, could have considered appropriate.

“In the Crown’s submission, the circumstances in this case meet this particular test.

“In the Crown’s submission, the sheriff failed to give sufficient weight to the seriousness of the offence.

"The respondent was in a position of trust, the offence involved grooming over a number of weeks and culminated in a contact offence.

“The sheriff failed to give sufficient weight to the impact of the offending behaviour on the complainer.

"The sentencing sheriff failed to give sufficient weight to the respondent’s previous convictions.”

Depute fiscal Anna Robertson told the previous hearing how Boyd took the girl to the cinema in June 2019 with her mother’s permission.

She said that Boyd told the youngster she should do her hair and make-up and referred to their “date”.

The court heard that Boyd and the girl started exchanging messages on WhatsApp. In one, the girl sent a photo and Boyd replied: “You look beautiful.”

Boyd also wrote: “I’m one lucky man taking you out on a date.”

After the girl sent him a photo on July 1, 2019, he replied: “You look nice tonight.” Later, he told her: “I miss you too. Missing my kisses and cuddles.”

On July 29, 2019, he messaged her: “I’ll dream about you. How soft your lips are for kisses.”

On August 5, 2019, Boyd was in a house with his wife, the girl and her mother, and others.

Boyd went to an upstairs toilet and made a hand gesture directing the girl to a bedroom, the court was told.

Ms Robertson said that he lifted the girl up under her arms, put his hands on her bottom and was “sucking on [the girl’s] lip and kissing her with an open mouth”.

Boyd kissed her lips and neck, told her she was a “good kisser”, and said: “I’ll go to jail if you tell. I’m too old.”

After Boyd and his wife left, the girl tearfully told her mother about the attack.

Police learned about his activities and he was arrested and brought to justice.

Defence solicitor advocate Jim Stephenson told the court that Boyd had lost his job after being convicted and accepted “responsibility” for his offending.

On Friday, the judges said they would issue their decision sometime in the near future.

Lady Dorrian added: “We shall give our decision on this in due course.”