A father of four who was caught after a schoolgirl put a video up on Snapchat of him masturbating in front of her has received a fully suspended prison sentence.
John Smith, 59, invited the 15-year-old girl into his van after asking for directions. He then masturbated in front of her.
He then asked the child for her phone number. He texted her later to ask her to meet with him again that same evening. The girl agreed, got into his van again and he again masturbated in front of her.
Gardaí were alerted after it was brought to the girl's parents' attention that she had recorded the incident and put the video up as a story on Snapchat.
Smith of Kylemore Drive, Ballyfermot, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to inviting or coercing a child to engage in a sexual or indecent act on October 20, 2016. He has one minor conviction for failing to pay a bus fare in 1992 and has been registered as a sex offender.
Judge Martin Nolan said that to say it was unusual behaviour “is an understatement”. He said he could accept the submission of counsel that the offending was at the lowest end of this type.
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.
Sergeant Declan O'Sullivan told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that the girl told gardaí that she had agreed to meet Smith a 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 nor did he touch 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”, 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 submitted that her client's behaviour was “at the lower end” of this type of offence because there was no physical contact and he didn't put her under pressure to stay in the van. She added that there was no suggestion of threat or violence towards the girl.
Counsel also asked the judge to consider that the girl had stated that she didn't 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.