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Man travelled to Dublin shopping centre to masturbate in front of children |



A man who twice travelled from his home in Belfast to a Dublin shopping centre in order to masturbate in the view of young girls has been jailed for a year.

David Douglas (65), formerly of Park Drive, Bangor, Co Down, but who is now living in rented accommodation in Hillsborough just outside Belfast, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to two charges of masturbation in a public place at Dundrum Town Centre on March 24th and March 27th, 2022.

The court heard that Douglas later admitted that he played this “eye-contact game” during which he would attempt to get eye contact with young girls while he masturbated outside of his clothing. He said he had been playing this game for about 20 years but initially his focus had been on women rather than young girls.

During one incident in March 2022, an off-duty garda said that she and her 11-year-old daughter had changed where they were sitting three times in the food court in Dundrum Town Centre because she became aware of Douglas sitting close by and found his behaviour strange.

She later reported that she left her daughter alone at a table while she went to collect their food order when she saw Douglas sitting at the table beside them. She thought this quite strange as there were loads of vacant tables in the food court and Douglas only had an almost empty bottle of water with him.

She moved with her daughter, but Douglas moved to sit right behind them, so she moved a second time. The woman then saw that Douglas was again sitting nearby and was continually looking at them. The woman ultimately left the food court because she felt so uncomfortable.

Garda Linda Byrne told Shaun Smyth BL, prosecuting, that she and a colleague were patrolling Dundrum Town Centre on March 27th when a security guard alerted them to a male acting inappropriately in the food court in the presence of young female children.

The gardaí responded and Douglas ran off when he spotted them, but they caught up with him. He was cautioned and later interviewed.

Gardaí secured CCTV footage from the food court and Douglas could be seen masturbating outside of his clothing in close proximity to where young girls were sitting with their families. It was evident that Douglas was focusing his attention on the girls.

Gda Byrne said gardaí then became aware of the complaint that had been made by the off-duty garda three days earlier.

Two months later, Douglas was interviewed and admitted that he got “sexual gratification” from making eye contact with young girls while masturbating. He explained that he would drink alcohol in order to reduce his inhibitions and in these incidents in Dundrum, he had been drinking vodka and white lemonade.

He said he never had any intention to have any physical contact with the young girls.

Douglas has five previous convictions from Ireland for road traffic offences and a further 28 convictions from Northern Ireland, which included offences of indecency and breaches of the sexual offender’s act.

Gda Byrne agreed with Keith Spencer BL, defending, that Douglas has no previous convictions that involve making physical contact with someone.

She agreed that the masturbation was on the outside of his clothing and Douglas told gardaí he needed alcohol to basically facilitate the offence as it reduces his inhibitions, so he can maintain eye contact.

Mr Spencer said his client is aware that what he is doing is “wrong and deplorable” and that he is addicted to carrying out this behaviour.

“It has brought him shame and remorse but is always linked to alcohol,” Mr Spencer said.

Mr Spencer said his client was “oversexualised” at a young age, having been exposed to pornographic material when he was a young teenager. He was married with three children, but he is now separated from his wife.

Judge Orla Crowe accepted that Douglas had “a problem with drink”. She said she found it hugely concerning that Douglas had travelled twice from Co Down to engage in this behaviour.

“He is a danger to the public at large and a danger to girls who are unfortunate enough to catch his eye. It is reprehensible. He has been punished in the past for similar behaviour, but it has not impacted on him,” Judge Crowe said.

She said the offence warranted a headline sentence of 18 months before she reduced that to 15 months. Judge Crowe suspended the final three months of that term on strict conditions including that he engage with the Probation Service for 12 months upon his release from custody.

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