A MAN who sexually assaulted a terrified teenage girl at a bus stop has been spared prison.

Patrick McNellis, 40, touched the 17-year-old student in broad daylight and made sexual remarks to her.

The incident on Greenock's West Stewart Street had such an effect on his victim that she suffered a panic attack.

McNellis — who is now on the Sex Offenders Register — forced her to give evidence in court by denying any wrongdoing.

He had initially approached the girl and two of her pals at 4pm on September 14 looking for money to buy booze, but turned nasty when he was refused.

Prosecutor Saud Ul Hassan told the town's sheriff court: "The accused made sexual remarks towards the 17-year-old which made her feel extremely uncomfortable.

"He repeatedly put his arms around her before kissing her to the side of her head.

"The witness was in fear and felt herself experiencing symptoms of a panic attack."

When a friend of the victim shouted for McNellis to stop he turned on the witness, called her 'fat' and ran towards her with a clenched fist, the court was told.

Fiscal depute Mr Ul Hassan said: "An unidentified male intervened and restrained the accused."

Defence lawyer Gerry Keenan referred to 'numerous expressions of remorse' from McNellis in a pre-sentencing background report.

A trial into the sexual assault had begun last month but McNellis decided to halt it and plead guilty after seeing how upset his victim was.

Mr Keenan said: "As soon as the complainer became emotional, he himself became emotional.

"He is similarly remorseful today and he wishes to convey a sincere apology to the complainer.

"He stopped the trial out of deference to the complainer and a sense of shame.

"His difficulties are firmly rooted in alcoholism."

The solicitor added: "What we have is a drunk man with his dog looking for more cash and he behaves in a wholly unacceptable fashion."

McNelis admitted sexually assaulting the girl by kissing her head and uttering sexual remarks, and to placing her and her friends in states of fear and alarm.

Sheriff Daniel Kelly told him: "This was an offence which caused considerable distress to the complainer and other witnesses.

"On balance I consider that the public interest is best served by imposing a community-based disposal as a direct alternative to custody."

McNellis, of Wellpark Buildings, must complete 300 hours of unpaid work within six months and he will be under supervision and on the Sex Offenders Register for a period of two years.