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Suspended sentence for man who performed sex act

A man who masturbated in front of four children last year and later told gardaí he had an insect bite in his genital region has been given a suspended sentence.

Mark Dolan, 49, formerly of Ardrew Heights, Dún Brinn, Athy, Co Kildare, pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual activity in front of a child at an address in Dublin on 6 May 2023.

Four girls aged between six and nine years old were playing in the cul-de-sac where they lived when Dolan exposed himself to them for over five minutes.

Footage of the entire incident was played during a hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this week.

Sentencing Dolan today, Judge Martin Nolan said that for reasons known only to himself, Dolan engaged in “deviant” behaviour on the day in question. He noted the effect this offending had on the children involved.

He took into account a number of mitigating factors including Dolan’s lack of criminal convictions. He handed down a two-and-a-half-year sentence and suspended it on a number of conditions, including that Dolan not visit the area where his offending took place.

A prosecuting garda told Emer Ní Chúagáin BL, for the State, that CCTV captured Dolan parking his car beside a school before he walked past a group of young girls, crossed the road and undid his jeans.

The footage showed him repeatedly checking whether anyone was there while exposing himself and masturbating at a sideways angle to the children, who were aware of his presence.

Three of the children’s mothers read out victim impact statements, while a prosecuting garda read out a victim impact statement on behalf of the mother of the fourth child.

All four girls have suffered recurrent nightmares since the offence and no longer feel safe, the court heard.

The mother of a girl who was aged six at the time of the offence said her daughter had been a happy, independent, secure, fun-loving little girl who loved playing with her friends until her innocence and security were stolen by Dolan.

“I will never forget the look of fear and confusion on their faces when they knocked on my door to tell me about ‘the bad man’,” she said.

“Women and girls are subject to this type of crime all too often in Ireland,” she said, adding: “A clear message needs to be sent that this will not be tolerated.”

Another mother of a girl who was aged nine at the time said the incident turned her daughter from a happy, sociable, confident little girl into someone who is worried, vulnerable, scared and has regular nightmares about “the man”.

“It robbed her of her innocence. It will forevermore be her first sexual encounter. We will never be able to bring her back to before ‘the man’ cast a shadow in her life,” the woman said.

The court heard that the parents of all four children contacted the guards, who obtained footage from a nearby homeowner and also identified Dolan’s car registration.

Dolan has no previous convictions.

He was arrested two days after the offence and initially told gardaí he had an insect bite.

During his third interview, Dolan made admissions but denied he had been masturbating.

He told gardaí that his behaviour was related to a form of exhibitionism and that he had been pretending to urinate.

The garda agreed with counsel for the defence that Dolan had stayed on the opposite side of the road to the children and that there had been no full-frontal exposure.

Counsel said Dolan felt “rotten and disgusted” with himself and that he accepted that this was a “despicable act” which had traumatised the children.

Counsel said Dolan described the period of the offence as “the lowest moment of his life” as he had separated from his wife and was soon to be divorced, which had destroyed his self-esteem and mental health.

Dolan was living on his own with limited access to his children and was working six days and three nights a week at the time, the court heard.

Dolan accepted that this offence was opportunistic and that he got a thrill from the public being present, counsel said. “This behaviour was in many ways attention-seeking,” counsel added.

The court heard that Dolan’s reputation had been destroyed by the publicity arising from the case and that his ex-partner, current partner and their children have also been negatively affected.

Dolan spent nine days in custody and began attending therapy to deal with emotional issues which had been building up for a long time, the court heard. He is also on medication, the court heard.

Testimonials on Dolan’s behalf were submitted from his current partner, his mother and two of his current employers, where he has worked as a mechanic for 16 years.

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