A THUG stormed into a Greenock playpark and lifted a terrified 11-year-old boy off the ground by his neck, a trial has heard.

John Paul Clark, 26, targeted the youngster because he 'was just the closest one' to him among a group of primary school lads.

His victim ran home 'absolutely distraught' to his mother and told her that a man had tried to 'strangle' him, the sheriff court was told.

The boy said in evidence: "The man said, 'I'll deck all of you and I'll kill your dads if you tell anyone'."

Clark, of Port Glasgow, committed the assault at the Annexe Park, on the corner of Fox Street and Newton Street in the west end.

He had gone there because his then-girlfriend's little brother, who was also 11, came to him upset about an incident that had occurred during a game of football.

Clark shouted and swore at the boys and agreed that he was 'very angry'.

His victim, who is now 14, chose to face him in court without shielding screens being in place.

The boy said: "He picked me up by the neck, put a hand on my face and pushed me down.

"I fell to the ground onto my back.

"I said to him, 'It wasn't me'."

The teenager added: "Nothing like that had ever happened to me before.

"He'd lifted me up by my throat, so I was face level with him.

"I had marks on my neck and scratches on my back."

The boy's mum, 49, told the court that her son had come home 'absolutely distraught'.

She added: "He said, 'A man tried to strangle me at the park'.

"I was fuming and was going to go to the park to see who was there but my son was still crying and he said, 'No, the man said if I told he'd hurt dad'."

A school friend of the victim said: "My friend fell to the ground and he was crying and just ran. We all ran away at the same time."

Clark — under questioning from his lawyer Paul Keenan — said his girlfriend's brother had come to him upset, adding: "He claimed he'd been getting bullied by boys.

"He has autism and had tormented the boys and they retaliated.

"I was very angry.

"The boy [whom he attacked] was just the closest one to me.

"I said that my girlfriend's brother was autistic and how would he like it if it was him.

"He seemed quite scared and emotional and he backed away and fell on his bum.

"He looked terrified.

"But when he fell I stopped shouting because I could see how terrified he was."

Clark said he made both boys 'shake hands', adding: "I was embarrassed."

Prosecutor Pamela Brady put it to Clark: "This boy was closest to you so he got the full force of your wrath and you put an 11-year-old boy who was out playing football in a state of terror."

Clark, of Fore Street in Port Glasgow, replied: "Yes."

But he insisted that the victim and his friend had lied about the assault.

Sheriff David Pender noted the evidence of the victim's mother and found Clark guilty of assault by seizing the boy on the neck and face, pushing him on the body and knocking him to the ground all to his injury.

First offender Clark committed the assault on February 26, 2019.

Sheriff Pender fined him £500 and ordered him to pay his victim £300 compensation.