December 2018

Sex offender jailed for six years after being caught exposing himself to young schoolgirls

A sex offender has been jailed for six years after he was caught exposing himself to frightened young girls on their way to school.

Barry Watters (42) walked past the victims with his genitals exposed as they walked down the street after attending a breakfast club.

He was also found with child sexual abuse images by gardaí who had spotted him entering an internet cafe and were able to remotely monitor what he was viewing.

Judge Martina Baxter handed down the sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today after Watters pleaded guilty to two counts of indecency at a location in the city in December 2014, and a separate count of possession of child pornography in 2016.

She noted Watters, who has been repeatedly convicted in the past of having child pornography “seems to be taking a step further, coming out from behind the computer screen.”

He had displayed “brazen exhibitionism” and was “targeting the most vulnerable people in society – children,” Judge Baxter said.

She sentenced him to seven years, with the final year suspended.

Watters, formerly of Infirmary Road, Dublin, and originally from Dundalk, Co Louth, was before the court today for sentencing, having entered his guilty plea earlier. The details of the offences were read out by Judge Baxter.

The court heard at 8.45am on December 1, 2014, a youth worker who ran a breakfast club was in the doorway looking out when she noticed a man walking up the street “with his penis exposed as he walked.”

He looked her in the face as he walked by and she was shocked. There were children around and he walked into a group of girls, with his penis still exposed, the court heard.

An 11-year-old girl who was walking alone and looking down described looking up and seeing the accused walking with his penis exposed. He was facing her, holding his penis and she “got a fright.”

A nine-year-old victim described walking out of the breakfast club when he walked past with his penis exposed. She ran and told a lollipop lady what happened.

The court heard at 8.50am on December 2, 2014, two children were walking to school when they met the accused walking on the footpath with his genitalia exposed.

A 10-year-old girl described how his “thing” rubbed off the top of her arm as he passed her, although she did not know if he meant it or not. When he rubbed off her he kept walking. She got a fright and ran to a nearby shop and then to the school and reported it.

She said the accused had been close to her and she started to walk around him but he moved too. The girl’s friend gave a similar account.

The judge said Watters’ presence in the area on the two occasions “wasn’t an accident.”

The girls were nervous and upset as a result of what happened, the court heard.

The judge said the accused never spoke to the children and it seemed he was “doing this for his own gratuitous interest.”

He was walking in a “very troubling way” and the way the incidents were dealt with was “testament to how the community responded when they realised the children were in peril.”

“These were unpleasant experiences for everyone involved,” the judge said.

The victims were innocent children and a tragic and awful effect of the offences was that their normal routine of walking to school unaccompanied had changed.

They had been gaining their independence but now that had been “cut short by the offending of Barry Watters.”

In the child pornography case, the court heard he was seen entering an internet cafe. He put on headphones and turned the screen around so nobody else could see what he was viewing.

He was seen smiling as he watched the screen for an hour or so. Gardai asked to access a live feed and saw him accessing images of pre-teen children in provocative poses and girls aged between seven and 11 in bikinis.

He handed over a USB stick which had been used to store images of child pornography – 23 in total. These showed children involved in sexual activity and with their genitals exposed.

Counsel for the accused said pleas in mitigation had been heard previously and probation and psychological reports were available to the court.

Watters had first come to the notice of the criminal justice system 10 years ago. His parents had suffered greatly as a result of his activities and adverse publicity, counsel said.

Watters had been in custody since July and was doing better there than when he is at liberty, his barrister said.

Judge Baxter said Watters had displayed “brazen exhibitionism” and sinister and disturbing behaviour.

After the first incident, he “became more emboldened.” She took account of a psychological report on him which showed that he had cognitive deficiency and was vulnerable and possibly on the autism spectrum.

She also noted a lack of empathy and “limited insight” into his behaviour.

The child sexual abuse images offence had happened while he was on bail subject to conditions, she said.

Watters had several previous convictions for possession of child pornography over the past 10 years and the judge said he “seems to be taking a step further, coming out from behind the computer screen,” which “raises the bar of offending.”

The final year of Watters’ sentence is suspended for two years subject to conditions, including sex offender treatment and post release supervision.

In that time he is to have no contact with any child under 18 or attend any family event where children are likely to be attending. Under the bond, he is also banned from entering any internet cafe or from using any internet enabled device without supervision.

Watters, dressed in a light grey sweater and grey tracksuit bottoms spoke only at the conclusion of the case, when the court registrar read out the terms of the peace bond.

He laughed, telling her: “I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

One of his barristers said the accused was hard of hearing and Judge Baxter told Watters to come forward. When the conditions were read out again and he was asked if he acknowledged them, he said: “I do.”