A father of four who invited a teenager into his van and began masturbating in front of her has received a fully suspended prison sentence.
John Smith (59), who the court heard was under “incredible strain” at the time, was caught committing the lewd act when the 15-year-old, who he had asked for directions, uploaded a video of him to Snapchat.
Smith asked the girl for her phone number and later sent her a text message and asking to meet him again on the same evening. The girl agreed and got into his van again and Smith again masturbated in front of her.
Gardaíwere alerted after it was brought to the girl’s parents’ attention that she had recorded the incident and uploaded it to the internet.
Smith, of Kylemore Drive, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to inviting or coercing a child to engage in a sexual or indecent act on October 20th, 2016. He had one minor conviction for failing to pay a bus fare in 1992 and has been registered as a sex offender.
Judge Martin Nolan said it would be “an understatement” to say that Smith had engaged in unusual behaviour. He said while there was no certainty, it was probably unlikely that Smith would offend to this degree in the future. He said it was unjust to imprison him based on what he did.
He sentenced Smith to two years imprisonment, which he suspended in full on strict conditions including that the accused follow all directions of the Probation Service for 12 months.
Sgt Declan O’Sullivan told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that the girl told gardaí she agreed to meet Smith the second time because she wanted to get the details of his van. Sgt O’Sullivan agreed with Fiona Murphy SC, defending, that Smith never threatened the girl or touched her in any way.
He accepted that Smith was a married man at the time, with four grown up children. He was under “incredible strain” as his brother had just passed away and he was assisting in caring for his mother.
Sgt O’Sullivan agreed that Smith told gardaí he didn’t know what had “come over me” but accepted that he was fully in the wrong. The garda accepted that the incident was “totally out of character”.
Ms Murphy asked the judge to consider that the girl who saw Smith masturbating had said she did not feel the need to make a victim impact statement as “she is moving on” with her life.
Ms Murphy said there were stresses in her client’s marriage at the time and he behaved in a way that was “totally alien to him”.
She said a probation report put Smith at a low risk of re-offending in circumstances where he has expressed remorse and shown insight into his offending behaviour.