A CONVICTED killer spotted in a Balloch man's garden trying to get into a parked car confessed to the bemused householder: "Someone told me to take your motor."

Paul Black was rumbled when a neighbour noticed him acting suspiciously late at night outside the property in Kessog Gardens.

And when a lawyer in court described the 53-year-old as having "a chequered past", the presiding sheriff said that was something of an understatement – and revealed Black had previously served time in jail for culpable homicide.

Black appeared at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Friday for sentencing after pleading guilty to a charge of being in the curtilage of a property without lawful authority.

He had admitted being in the garden of the house on the night of July 17, with the charge stating that "in all the circumstances, it may be reasonably inferred that you intended to commit theft".

Sentence had been deferred until Friday to allow social workers time to prepare a background report.

Fiscal depute Emma Petterson told the court: "At about 10.25pm, a witness was within her home when she saw the accused standing at her neighbour's vehicle, which was parked in the driveway.

"She saw the accused attempt to open the front passenger door before trying the rear passenger door."

Ms Petterson said the woman had alerted a male neighbour – though not, at first, the car's owner – and that the man had asked Black what he was doing.

"The accused said he was there to 'take the car'," Ms Petterson said.

The car's owner was then alerted, and he, too, asked Black what he thought he was doing – to which, Ms Petterson said, Black had replied: "Somebody told me to take your motor'."

Ms Petterson added: "It was clear to both witnesses that the accused was heavily under the influence of alcohol; they had to hold him up to make sure he didn't injure himself."

Police were called and Black was arrested, taken to Clydebank police office, and cautioned and charged.

Stephen McGuire, defending, said: "The circumstances are a bit odd, and Mr Black has something of a chequered past."

That prompted Sheriff John Hamilton to reply: "He has a High Court conviction for culpable homicide. He got five years. I think that's a bit more than a 'chequered past'."

Mr McGuire continued: "He had been drinking. He hadn't drunk for a couple of years, and hasn't drunk since; he doesn't know what the trigger was.

"He understands entirely that anyone looking at what he was doing would reasonably infer he was there to commit a theft."

Mr McGuire said that shortly after the incident Black, formerly of North Street in Alexandria, had been moved into the Blue Triangle housing association project in Bonhill.

The Blue Triangle specialises vulnerable people including those who have suffered drink or drug addiction problems.

Suggesting to the sheriff that a community-based sentence would be appropriate, Mr McGuire continued: "He got into a complete mess through drink.

"His life had no structure at all; there are issues he needs assistance with, and the structure of a community payback order [CPO] wouldn't do him any harm."

Sheriff Hamilton duly placed Black – who, according to court papers, is still a Blue Triangle resident – on a CPO which will see him supervised by a social worker for the next 12 months.

He was also ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work by June next year as a punishment – reduced from 150 hours because of his guilty plea – and was warned that he could be jailed if he fails to comply.