A WOMAN who falsely accused an innocent man of raping her four years ago stood sobbing in the dock of Greenock Sheriff Court as her cruel crime finally caught up with her.

Caitlin Leonard waited for nearly a year after having consensual sex with the man before maliciously reporting him to police with the sham allegation.

The 23-year-old, of Port Glasgow, wiped away tears after pleading guilty to making repeated fabrications in a bid to frame her victim, and wasting police time.

Sheriff Linda Smith chose not to hear a narration of the facts of the long-running case before deciding to spare mum-of-one Leonard, of Highholm Street, a prison sentence.

The sheriff told her: "You have no previous convictions so I'm prepared to deal with this by way of a community payback order."

Leonard had sex with the man in March of 2015 and first went to police with her fictitious rape claim in February the following year.

She admitted a charge of falsely accusing the man on various occasions between February 2 and March 3 of 2016.

Leonard made the accusations at the Port's iZone Youth Cafe and at her home, giving spurious statements to three female police officers.

Police investigated her story for seven months as the man was treated as a suspected serious sexual offender.

Leonard also pleaded guilty to a charge of causing the officers to devote time to an investigation she knew was false and temporarily depriving the public of their services.

Sheriff Linda Smith said: "The recommendation [in the background report] is for a community payback order with unpaid work.

Defence lawyer Aidan Gallagher said: "I have spoken to her in fairly stark terms that if she is given that opportunity, then she should comply."

Sheriff Smith told a weeping Leonard: "I was considering a custodial sentence in this matter.

"You committed a very serious offence in making this allegation.

"Be in no doubt that this community payback order is an alternative to custody, so if you do not complete the order there is no other option."

Leonard has been ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work within six months.