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Belfast sex offender 'caught on supermarket CCTV touching himself in front of children', court hears

By Paul Higgins

Published 12/01/2016

Forestside Shopping Centre
Forestside Shopping Centre

A convicted sex offender accused of acting indecently towards children in the middle of two supermarkets has been granted bail despite police objections.

Standing in the dock of Newtownards Magistrates Court, 82-year-old John Douglas Stanfield confirmed that he understood the 16 charges against him.

Stanfield, from the Rosetta Road in east Belfast, is accused of six charges of breaching his sexual offences prevention order, six counts of engaging in sexual acts in the presence of children, three charges of indecent behaviour and one of failing to comply with the sex offenders register, all alleged to have occurred on specific dates in February, March, November and December last year.

Giving evidence to the court, a detective constable said she believed she could connect Stanfield to each of the charges while a prosecuting lawyer said although it was an "unusual application" given that Stanfield was released on police bail after he initially charged, the PPS were asking for the pensioner to be remanded into custody.

The detective described how police were called to the Sainsbury's supermarket at Forestside shopping centre on December 10 last year following reports of Stanfield "touching himself in front of children" in an incident captured on CCTV footage.

Having seized and watched that footage, Stanfield was arrested at his home and the officer revealed that enquiries uncovered two similar incidents in the same shop on December 4 and November 28.

All three incidents had been recorded on security cameras and the officer described how Stanfield could be seen "actively seeking out children in the aisles and he then, in the presence of the child would touch his penis".

"When an adult comes into view he quickly takes his hand away and looks at the shelf," said the detective.

District Judge Mark Hamill asked if Stanfield exposed himself while engaging in this alleged activity or if he spoke to or touched the children but the cop said no, "it's over his clothing."

"He doesn't talk to them and he didn't touch them but his behaviour is concerning given the fact that he is trying to get the attention of the child as opposed to shopping," said the officer.

She told the court how police enquiries uncovered further similar incidents in February and March last year, this time at the Tesco supermarket on the Newtownbreda Road.

Arrested and interviewed Stanfield was shown footage from each incident but each time, his explanation "was that he was scratching his psoriasis," the court heard.

Defence solicitor Hugh Edgar told the court there was "medical evidence" about Stanfield's condition, submitting that the pensioner should be released again given that he was freed on police bail in the first place.

Releasing Stanfield on his own bail of £500, Judge Hamill barred the pensioner from entering any supermarket or its car park and from having contact with children.

While he warned the prosecution "don't contemplate for a moment prosecuting this in the magistrates," he told Mr Edgar a "bad character application is staring you in the face."

Stanfield was ordered to come back to court on 9 February and warned that any breach of his bail or SOPO would mean "you will remain in custody" until it's dealt with.

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