‘Sharking’ accused denies sexual motivation in attacks

Man (18) says incidents part of game where alleged victims’ clothes are pulled down

A teenage delivery driver accused of trying to strip three women in so-called "sharking" attacks denies any sexual motivation for the incidents, Northern Ireland's High Court has heard.

Padraig O’Neill claimed the random incidents were part of a game where alleged victims’ clothes are pulled down, with the attack recorded for posting online, the court was told.

Prosecutors said Mr O’Neill described acting in order to get a “buzz” but later regretted his actions.

The 18-year-old is charged with sexually assaulting two women in Belfast and a third in Bangor, Co Down within a 24-hour period.


Mr O’Neill, of Oldpark Road in Lisburn, Co Antrim, was granted bail but banned from having any device capable of filming.

He was arrested following the latest alleged attack in Bangor on May 13th. Prosecution counsel Kate McKay said a woman had been walking her four dogs on the town’s Ballycrochan Road when she was grabbed and wrestled to the ground.

Ms McKay claimed that Mr O’Neill pulled down the victim’s trousers and pants before touching her between the legs.

Mr O’Neill was said to have ran off, only to be detained by a member of the public.

During police interviews, Mr O’Neill was said to have claimed that the incident was part of a game involving pulling down unsuspecting women’s clothes while photographing the attack.

“He said he knows this as ‘sharking’ and states it can be viewed on the internet,” Ms McKay said.

Alleged attacks

Mr O’Neill is also accused of similar attacks on two women in Belfast the night before. One claimed attempts were made to pull up her dress and remove her underwear after she was forced to the ground on Elm Street in the south of the city.

Ms McKay said: “She was distressed, confused and shouted at the male, asking him what he was doing.

“He laughed at her and she could see he was recording the incident on his mobile phone.”

Hours later, another woman was said to have been targeted on Elgin Street. She alleged that she was grabbed from behind by what she at first thought was a jogger.

The attacker was said to have started to pull her leggings down, but the court was told he ran off after she shouted for help.

According to the prosecution, Mr O’Neill again told police he was playing the “sharking” game during the incident.

He was said to have been in the area due to his job as a fast-food delivery driver.

Ms McKay said: “He told police . . . he did not get sexual gratification.

“He confirmed that he did it as a buzz, but afterwards, when he watched the video back, he felt regret, and deleted the videos within 12 hours.”

Opposing bail, Ms McKay claimed there was a risk of re-offending.

Defence counsel Conor O’Kane argued that his client’s alleged offences were not sexually motivated.

It was contended that "sharking" is a well-known internet craze in Asia.

Mr Justice Paul Maguire said that the alleged actions were unacceptable. Granting bail, he warned Mr O’Neill’s father, who was in court, that his son would be in “serious trouble” if there was any repeat.

The accused was ordered to surrender his mobile phone and subjected to a curfew and electronic monitoring. He was also banned from entering Bangor and told that he must see his GP within seven days of being released.