A SCOUT leader for 20 years has narrowly escaped being sent to prison for the stalking of his former partner.

Michael Lawson, 40, was told by Skipton magistrates he was being given a community order as a 'direct alternative' to custody for pursuing a course of conduct over three weeks from August amounting to stalking of a woman he was no longer in a relationship with.

Magistrates also agreed to a restraining order after hearing the woman had been frightened and had feared for her safety by his actions.

The court heard on Friday that Lawson, of Farnhill, had gone to the woman's home in Sutton-in-Craven and also to where she works in Keighley in an attempt to talk to her.

He gave unwanted flowers and gifts, and send numerous messages saying how much he loved her and how he wanted to fight to save their relationship.

But the woman, who he claimed had left him suddenly, and without explanation, in a statement said his attention was unwanted and that his behaviour frightened her and affected her day to day living.

Prosecuting, Martin Butterworth, said Lawson had continued with his course of behaviour following his first appearance at a different court when he had been allowed bail.

He said the woman, in a statement, had said Lawson's contact was unwanted, that his behaviour frightened her and left her anxious. He added there had however been no threats and the behaviour had been restricted to weeks rather than months.

Lawson, who admitted pursing a course of conduct which amounted to stalking, was of previous good character, the court heard.

Mitigating, Alexandra White, said Lawson, a full time builder, with children, had been a scout leader in Ilkley for 20 years.

She said he admitted going to his former partner's home and to her place of work, but not to following her, was full of remorse and had no intention of every contacting her again.

Miss White said Lawson had felt exasperated after the woman had moved out of his home overnight without any explanation.

Magistrates told Lawson, of Bucklar Hill, Newby Road, Farnhill, that what he had done had crossed the custody threshold, and although he was not being sent to prison, the community order was a direct alternative.

Magistrates also imposed a restraining order on Lawson, barring him from contacting his former partner in any way, at her home, or at her place of work.

He was given a 12 month community sentence including a 12 week curfew from 7pm to 6am. He will also have to attend 21 sessions addressing thinking skills and up to 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days. He will also have to pay a surcharge of £90 and costs of £85.