East Lothian crime: Edinburgh shopkeeper who 'groomed' 13-year-old girl put on sex offenders register

An East Lothian shopkeeper targeted a young schoolgirl by giving her vodka and cash before begging her to marry him.

Vinit Kotadiya told the 13-year-old girl he loved her and showered her with gifts when he was working behind the counter at the Lifestyle Express store in Tranent, a court heard.

The 23-year-old from Gorgie, Edinburgh, swapped social media details with the girl and began sending her indecent messages online in the grooming attempt last year.

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He was placed on the Sex Offenders Register and told to carry out unpaid work when he appeared in the dock at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for sentencing on Tuesday (September 20).

Vinit Kotadiya from Gorgie has been put on the sex offenders register for targeting a girl, 14, while working at Lifestyle Express in Tranent, East Lothian

Solicitor Jennifer Cameron, defending Kotadiya, said her client was initially told the girl was 16 but – after a week of messaging each other – she had told him her true age.

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Ms Cameron said Kotadiya was “a bright young man” who had a university degree but admitted there had been “underlying connotations” to his behaviour.

Sheriff John Cook said: “The court takes into account you were in a foreign country with no friendship group or other support at the time.

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Vinit Kotadiya outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court

“But not withstanding that, the offence involves an adult male communicating with a 13-year-old girl.

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“You continued to make contact with romantic overtones which is unacceptable and could be considered grooming by you.”

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At his sentencing, Kotadiya was placed on the Sex Offenders Register as well as a supervision order for the next six months and was also ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Previously the court was told the girl was just 13 when she and Kotadiya struck up a friendship at the store and swapped social media details.

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Fiscal depute Morgan Beattie said the shop worker was told of the girl’s age but soon began buying alcohol for her and meeting up with her behind the store. The court heard Kotadiya asked the girl to “be his Valentine’s” in early February last year.

The prosecutor said: “She told him she was only 13 and he said he would wait for her. The accused told the complainer he loved her and wants to marry her. He promised not to let her down and again she indicated she was 13.”

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Kotadiya also gifted the schoolgirl a new rucksack, a bottle of vodka and £120 in cash when she turned 14.

Ms Beattie said the girl’s mother “became concerned” about the relationship after spotting messages between the girl and her friends. The police were contacted and Kotadiya was arrested and charged, the court heard.

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Kotadiya pleaded guilty to sending electronic messages to a 13-year-old girl that were grossly offensive, or of an indecent nature, and told her he loved her, requested she tell him she loved him and informed her he wants to marry her at Lifestyle Express, Bridge Street, Tranent, between January 1 and February 18 last year.

He also admitted to giving the girl alcohol for consumption in a public place between the same dates.

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