A MAN who subjected a young boy to emotional and physical abuse over a period spanning two-and-a-half years has been described as 'wonderful' by the victim's mother.

Scott Boyd, 32, terrified and tormented the youngster between the ages of just four and six before the woman sparked the prosecution against him by alerting police 'out of exhaustion', Greenock Sheriff Court heard.

Sheriff Andrew McIntyre declared that the Port Glasgow man had gone 'over the line' when he smacked the boy so hard after failing to finish his dinner that he was left writhing in agony and screaming out in abject pain.

But in a letter sent to the court ahead of a sentencing hearing, the mother pointed to 'wonderful things' Boyd — who is not the boy's father — had done with him, including cheering him on at sports events and building Lego with him.

She said that she didn't consider the smack on her naked son — which left a red mark and raised skin covering his buttocks and lower back — to have been an assault, but 'harsh chastisement', the court was told.

The woman — who told police that Boyd had 'absolutely skelped' the child — added that she was in 'no doubt' that he wants to change and that the boy 'misses him'.

Boyd also forced the child to eat his meals in his room while he, his partner and two other children ate together — and he frequently called the boy names such as 'nasty', 'baby' and 'stupid'.

He was 'adamant' that his behaviour towards the child was needed in order 'to instil fear to get respect', the court was told at a pleading hearing last month.

Boyd told police: "Aye, I slapped him on the bum — he was misbehaving and I told him, you need to toe the line boy."

Prosecutor Pamela Brady had told the court: "The accused's partner stated that the boy having to eat his meals in his room breaks her heart but that the accused wouldn't listen.

"The child appeared to be very frightened of the accused."

Boyd's lawyer, David Tod, said: "He accepts that the conduct cannot be continued."

Sheriff McIntyre said: "In a case like this there is clearly a wide spectrum of possibilities on how serious it could be viewed.

"It's whether it is a concerted and sustained course of abusive behaviour, or an overly zealous or ill-judged approach to parenting.

Solicitor Mr Tod said: "When I went over the background report with Mr Boyd it became clear to me that what we are dealing with is a lack of education in how to parent a child."

But Sheriff McIntyre remarked: "However, this (the forceful assault to injury) as has been accepted, goes over the line."

Mr Tod said: "He is assessed as being of low risk of reoffending because what he was doing was not done out of maliciousness or loss of temper."

Sheriff McIntyre said: "There is no doubt, from what I've read, that this is quite plain.

"However, it was ill-judged and distressing for the child.

"It is quite plain that this was not a determined, concerted course of conduct designed to be harmful to the child, regardless of what effect it had."

The sheriff made reference to an 'extremely clear, detailed and articulate' letter sent to the court by the child's mother, adding: "She has considerable insight into the matter, she says she has never feared for the safety of the child but is keen to address the accused's outdated discipline techniques.

"She has given a much fuller picture than was necessarily before the court.

"That is not to say that what has happened is not serious."

The court was also told that Boyd 'has had time to reflect and has remorse' for what he did.

He had pleaded guilty last month to intimidation, emotional abuse, placing the child in a state of fear and alarm and slapping him on his naked body forcefully to injury.

Sheriff McIntyre placed Boyd, of Muirdykes Avenue in Port Glasgow, under court-ordered social work supervision for 18 months.

He said: "I hope this gives the support that is needed."