A HELENSBURGH man who repeatedly abused two children by forcing them to play along with his bizarre fantasy that he was a three-year-old girl has narrowly been spared jail.

But a package of tough measures will see the authorities keep a close eye on Simon Cunningham’s behaviour in the community for up to five years.

The Advertiser previously told how Cunningham had admitted shouting offensive remarks, telling one of the children that he was an ‘adult baby’, and describing to them how he enjoyed dressing up as a three-year-old child called ‘Molly’.

Between April 2011 and March 2021, Cunningham repeatedly dressing up as a baby in the child’s presence, including wearing adult nappies, and provided the child with a baby bottle and dummy on various occasions.

He also offered the child a nappy to wear, sent them text messages describing to the child his experiences of dressing up as ‘Molly’, and made references to standing in front of the child in a soiled nappy, asking them to buy him new ones.

Cunningham also pleaded guilty to a second charge in which he made another child wear nappies while they slept.

That charge stated that he “expressed disappointment” when the child did not soil the nappy, and accused the child of wasting his money by not doing so.

That offence was committed on various occasions between March 2014 and March 2021.

As well as dressing up as ‘Molly’ in front of the second child, in a costume which, according to the charge admitted by Cunningham, included a “baby-girl style dress, wig and accessories in form of a bottle and dummy”, he would encourage the child to change into a nappy and to watch cartoons with him whilst pretending to be a toddler.

Cunningham, who was listed in court papers as currently being a resident of West Princes Street, pleaded guilty to a third charge of sexually assaulting one of the two children on a single occasion between March 2014 and March 2016 by forcing them to remove their lower clothing, putting a cloth over their naked lower body, and touching them on the body in order to put a nappy on them when there was no need.

The 49-year-old appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court for sentencing last week, when defence lawyer Kenneth McGowan said: “This is a difficult matter with some complexity. You are dealing with a first offender. He has had no difficulty with engaging in social workers.”

Sheriff Maxwell Hendry told Cunningham: “These are serious offences, and I have some doubt in my mind whether you fully appreciate how traumatic the offences, and your choice of behaviour, was towards these young [children].

“On the face of it you seem to have an understanding, but there are indications that perhaps [you think] what happened wasn’t so bad after all. I suspect the effect will be traumatic and lifelong on these children.

“Now you may have own difficulties arising from your past experiences, but it is no explanation or excuse for visiting further trauma on other young people, because that simply guarantees that this cycle will continue. I have had to think about sending you to prison, but I am not.”

As an alternative to prison, the sheriff placed Cunningham on a community payback order (CPO) with three years of social work supervision.

He was also put on a six-month curfew restricting him to his home from 7pm to 7am.

The CPO also includes numerous conduct requirements to keep a close eye on Cunningham’s behaviour.

He must allow any police officer to monitor any internet-enabled device that he owns or uses by providing usernames and passwords, and must not delete any history of internet searches, calls or text messages on any device.

He must not use any downloads, software, or service designed to conceal his access to the internet, call records and other communication without approval.

He must also inform his social work supervisor of any new relationships he gets into.

Cunningham was put on the sex offenders register for three years, and was made the subject of a ‘sexual offences prevention order’ for five years, barring him from any contact with any person under 16, and from entering any public parks, play areas, schools, nurseries or any other setting where children are expected to gather.

In addition, a non-harassment order was imposed preventing Cunningham from having any form of contact with either of his victims, or going to their home addresses, until June 2027.