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Lisburn man in 'sharking' claims denies any sexual motivation


Judge hitting gavel

Judge hitting gavel

Judge hitting gavel

A delivery driver accused of attempting to strip three women in "sharking" attacks has denied there was any sexual motivation in the alleged incidents.

The High Court heard that Padraig O'Neill claimed the alleged attacks where part of an internet craze where someone records themselves pulling down someone else's clothes and posts the footage online.

Prosecutors said O'Neill described acting to get a "buzz" but later regretted his actions.

The 18-year-old is charged with sexually assaulting two women in Belfast and a third in Bangor, Co Down, within a 24-hour period.

O'Neill, of Oldpark Road, Lisburn, was arrested following the alleged Bangor attack on May 13.

Prosecutor Kate McKay said a woman had been walking her dogs on the town's Ballycrochan Road when she was grabbed and wrestled to the ground.

Mrs McKay claimed O'Neill pulled down the alleged victim's trousers before touching her between her legs then running off, only to be detained by a passer-by.

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During police interviews, he said it was part of a game involving pulling down unsuspecting women's clothes and photographing the incident, the court heard.

"He said that he knows this as 'sharking' and states it can be viewed on the internet," Mrs McKay told the court.

O'Neill is also accused of similar attacks on two women in Belfast the night before. One of the alleged victims claimed attempts were made to pull up her dress and remove her underwear after she was forced to the ground on Elm Street in the south of the city.

"She was distressed, confused and shouted at the male, asking him what he was doing," the prosecutor claimed. "He laughed at her and she could see he was recording the incident on his mobile phone."

Hours later another woman was allegedly targeted on Elgin Street. The court was told she was grabbed from behind by an attacker who tried to pull her leggings down but ran off after she shouted for help. According to prosecutors, O'Neill once again told police that he was playing the sharking game.

Mrs McKay added: "He told police he did not get sexual gratification. He confirmed that he did it as a buzz, but afterwards, when he watched the video back, he felt regret and deleted the videos within 12 hours."

Granting bail, Mr Justice Maguire warned O'Neill's father that his son would be in "serious trouble" if there was any repeat of the alleged incidents.

The court was told sharking is a well-known internet craze in Asia, and defence counsel argued the alleged offences were not sexually motivated. The accused was ordered to surrender his mobile phone and subjected to a curfew and electronic monitoring. He was also banned from entering Bangor and told he must see his GP within a week of being released.

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