A MEMBER of a once feared Johnstone crime clan has been jailed for 13 years after subjecting young girls to horrific abuse.

James Winters, 61, preyed on six terrified victims, raping four of them.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that, for years, they were too afraid to speak out as Winters and his family had a fearsome reputation in Johnstone.

His relatives include a convicted killer and Winters himself lost an eye after being stabbed in a suspected gangland attack in the 1990s.

But they bravely testified last month, which led to him being convicted of a total of 13 charges.

Winters was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely when he appeared for sentencing today.

His appalling crimes took place over an 18-year period, between 1979 and 1997, at various locations in Johnstone and Paisley, as well as in cars.

Lady Haldane told Winters that one victim was abused so regularly that, tragically, she believed what happened to her was "normal."

The judge added: "This was consistent, manipulative and predatory behaviour.

"Each victim was, in one or another, vulnerable.

"It took enormous courage to give evidence against you. They had been afraid to tell anyone because you said no-one would believe them or from fear of reprisals to them or their families."

One of the young victims was aged just seven or eight when she was attacked.

Winters, now of Paisley, showed no emotion as he was sentenced but one woman shouted "love you" towards him as he was led handcuffed to the cells.

In evidence last month, Winters confessed to being no stranger to crime.

His QC Iain McSporran put to him: "We may have gained the impression that you were able at the time to have a lifestyle, including flash cars, due to criminality, rather than hard work. That the position?"

Winters replied: "Yes."

Mr McSporran also asked: "Were there times you or members of your family were feared?"

He replied: "Me and my brothers protected each other. We did not back down from anyone."

Winters said the "turning point" was around 1993, when he was "jumped."

He recalled: "I was stabbed in the eye and the blade broke in my eye."

Despite admitting being involved in other illegal activities, he denied the sexual abuse.

One of his victims was repeatedly raped from when she was around 16 into her 20s.

But Winters said he was latterly in a relationship with her and that any sexual contact was "consensual."

He was found guilty of five rape charges, five of acting in a lewd and libidinous manner, two indecent assaults and a further crime of assault with intent to rape.

Mr McSporran told the hearing: "He maintains his innocence in respect of the charges.

"He is a very different man today to that we heard about in evidence."