January 2018

Man carried out sex attacks on schoolgirls in Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath

A MAN carried out sex attacks on two schoolgirls after a court order banned him contacting children shortly after his release from prison.

Michael Harlow bought alcohol for underage girls from a store in Cowdenbeath before indecently assaulting a 14-year-old.

Less than a fortnight later, he struck again in Dunfermline when he grabbed a 15-year-old schoolgirl and lifted her up and started taking her down an alley.

The teenager told the High Court in Edinburgh: “I just kept screaming and kicking him.”

She was telling him to let her go but Harlow refused and told her she was beautiful and tried to kiss her but she managed to break free, the court heard.

Unemployed Harlow had denied committing the sexual assaults at Chapel Street, in Cowdenbeath on February 20 last year and at Chapel Street, in Dunfermline on March 2, but was found guilty of the offences by a jury.

He then pleaded guilty to two offences under protection of children legislation for breaching a Risk of Sexual Harm Order imposed by a sheriff in 2014 which prohibited him having contact or communication with any child under the age of 16.

Harlow had been freed from Perth jail in December 2016 after being imprisoned for an earlier breach of such an order.

The court heard that Harlow, 26, has five convictions for breaching the notification requirements of the sex offenders’ register and three for breaching sexual harm orders.

A judge said that an earlier report prepared on him made for “alarming reading”.

Lord Uist deferred sentence on him for the preparation of a background report with a risk assessment and remanded him in custody.

But the judge told him: “I must make it clear that in taking such a step I have not ruled out the possibility of making a risk assessment order.”

Such a step can lead to the making of an Order for Lifelong Restriction.

Under such a sentence, an offender is given a fixed prison term they must serve but are then only subsequently freed when parole authorities are satisfied they no longer pose a risk to the public.

Advocate depute Jim Keegan QC said that as a younger teenager, Harlow was kept in secure accommodation and released at the age of 18.

The prosecutor said: “There is a report that discloses a disturbing forensic history that commences when the accused was about 12 years of age. Much of that history reveals inappropriate sexual behaviour.”

Before the first sexual assault, the victim had met up with others and drink had been consumed. They made their way to a store in Cowdenbeath looking for someone to buy alcohol for them. Harlow was approached and agreed to buy it.

He asked the girls details of their names, where they lived and their ages and was told they were all aged between 13 and 15.

Mr Keegan said: “It must have been obvious to him that they were all young teenagers.”

Harlow walked around with the girls until they split up to go their separate ways home.

He then targeted one of the girls and began touching her body and kissing her on the face, neck and chest.

Before the second assault, Harlow had approached the victim, who was with a friend, at Dunfermline bus station.

He followed them onto a bus and claimed he worked as a bouncer, the court was told.

The victim told him she was 15 and her friend said she was 14. He repeatedly asked the older girl her name and phone number. She avoided telling him her name but thought her friend might have.

He followed the older girl off the bus and later sent her a friend request on Facebook and Snapchat. The following day, she received numerous messages from him but told him that as she was at school she could not speak to him.

She later met up with friends and Harlow joined them. He “touched up” her companions and made them feel uncomfortable before grabbing the victim and taking her down an alley before she managed to break free and return to her friends.