A SLEAZY shopkeeper who targeted a young schoolgirl by giving her vodka and asked her to marry him has been placed on the sex offenders' register.

Vinit Kotadiya told the 13-year-old girl that he loved her and showered her with gifts when he was working behind the counter at the Lifestyle Express store in Tranent.

Kotadiya, 23, swapped social media details with the youngster and began sending her indecent messages online in the grooming attempt last year.

He was placed on the sex offenders' register and told to carry out unpaid work when he appeared in the dock at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for sentencing today (Tuesday).

Solicitor Jennifer Cameron said that her client was initially told the girl was 16 but, after a week of messaging each other, she had told him her true age.

Ms Cameron said that Kotadiya was “a bright young man” who had a university degree but admitted there had been “underlying connotations” to his behaviour.

Vinit Kotadiya outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court

Vinit Kotadiya outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court

Sheriff John Cook said: “The court takes into account you were in a foreign country with no friendship group or other support at the time.

“But not withstanding that, the offence involves an adult male communicating with a 13-year-old girl.

“You continued to make contact with romantic overtones, which is unacceptable and could be considered grooming by you.”

Kotadiya was placed on the sex offenders' register, as well as a supervision order for the next six months, and was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Previously, the court was told that the girl was just 13 when she and Kotadiya struck up a friendship at the store and swapped social media details.

Fiscal depute Morgan Beattie said that the shop worker was told of the girl’s age but soon began buying alcohol for her and meeting up with her behind the store.

READ MOREShopkeeper plied 13-year-old with alcohol and asked her to marry him

The court heard that Kotadiya asked the girl to “be his Valentine’s” in early February last year.

The prosecutor added: “She told him she was only 13 and he said he would wait for her. The accused told the complainer he loved her and wants to marry her.

“He promised not to let her down and again she indicated she was 13.”

Kotadiya, of Gorgie, Edinburgh, also gifted the schoolgirl a new rucksack, a bottle of vodka and £120 in cash when she turned 14.

Ms Beattie said that the girl’s mother “became concerned” about the relationship after spotting messages between the girl and her friends.

The police were contacted and Kotadiya was arrested and charged.

Kotadiya pleaded guilty to sending electronic messages to a 13-year-old girl that were grossly offensive, or of an indecent nature, and told her he loved her, requested she tell him she loved him, and informed her he wanted to marry her at Lifestyle Express, Bridge Street, Tranent, between January 1 and February 18 last year.

He also admitted to giving the girl alcohol for consumption in a public place between the same dates.