A former foster carer who sexually assaulted vulnerable young girls in the Highlands has been jailed for two years.
A judge rejected a plea to spare Francis Ward a prison sentence following his offending against two children.
Lady Scott told the 70-year-old at the High Court in Edinburgh: “The seriousness of these offences requires a prison sentence.”
She said: “These are offences which will have long lasting negative effects on both of your victims.”
Lady Scott told Ward that the sentence would be substantially reduced from what he might otherwise have faced for such crimes.
The judge said that Ward’s criminal conduct was committed for the purpose of his own sexual gratification.
Ward, formerly of Dornoch, in Sutherland, had denied a series of offences during a trial last year but was convicted of sexually assaulting both girls. The offences were committed between 2012 and 2014.
He kissed and touched one girl when she was aged just eight and molested a second victim from the age of 11.
The jury at his trial deleted an allegation that he raped the older girl.
The woman told the court that as a child she was “too scared” to speak to anyone about what was happening to her. She said Ward told her that if she spoke to anyone her family would be hurt.
She said she later found the courage to speak up and told support workers who were helping her at the time.
Defence counsel Ian Duguid QC invited the court to deal with Ward by the imposition of a non-custodial sentence, although he added: “I fully recognise these are offences which might normally attract a custodial sentence.”
He said Ward had continuing, serious health issues and was required to attend hospital for iron infusions and kidney treatment.
Mr Duguid said that Ward, of Wallasey, Liverpool, posed a low likelihood of reoffending.
He told the court: “His physical condition is seriously impaired by his general ill-health.”
Ward was told he will be placed on the sex offenders’ register for the next ten years.