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Co. Armagh care assistant who masturbated in public park handed prison term

William Cook

A Co. Armagh care assistant who masturbated in a public park because he fancied the man he exposed himself to was handed a 14-month sentence on Monday.

Despite defence submissions not to jail 56-year-old William Cook, Judge Patrick Lynch QC warned that “I must make it clear that society and the courts will not tolerate this form of abhorrent, perverted activity.”

“Individuals who engage in such activity in public must expect to go to prison,” declared the Craigavon Crown Court judge.

He added however that due to Cook’s health problems and the need for “remedial work that required, I believe that a longer period on licence will be required.”

Of the 14 month sentence, Cook will serve two months in jail and a year under supervised licence conditions.

At an earlier hearing Cook, from Mahon Avenue in Portadown, admitted outraging public decency on 5 May this year by “exposing his penis and masturbating in public.”

On Friday, prosecuting counsel Ian Tannahill said the facts of the case were “quite straight forward” in that a man and his father were having a walk in Oxford Island just before 2pm when he saw a cigarette lying oddly on the ground.

“He stopped and when he looked up, Mr Cook emerged from a bush behind him and as he got into his car, he saw the defendant undo his belt, lower his trousers to his knees, exposing his penis, while staring at him,” said the lawyer adding that Cook “played with it.”

The witness drove away but he and his father returned a short time later and found Cook “in a bush beside the car park.”

“At that stage he was seen with his penis in his hand and they both gave an account that he was masturbating,” said Mr Tannahill.

Police had already been called and they arrested Cook at the scene but during interviews, “he made the case that he was having to urinate as he was diabetic….And said he couldn’t get an erection, he was impotent and was incapable of masturbating.”

Defence counsel Joel Lindsey submitted that Cook “hasn’t dealt with issues in his life,” revealing that despite the fact he has been married for almost 20 years, “he has struggled for some time with his sexual proclivities and his desires” towards men.

Cook, said the lawyer, was trying to gain a “sexual thrill” and when he saw the witness, “he was attracted to him” so in what he described as a “mad, mad moment,” he exposed himself and started to masturbate.

“He saw the male come back so he though he must be interested and then he does it again which makes it worse,” said Mr Lindsey, conceding that “there’s no excuse for this….he is remorseful and absolutely ashamed of his behaviour.”

The court heard that having worked for many years as a carer in homes for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Cook is now a carer for his alcoholic wife and older brother and has numerous medical problems himself, including the fact that he was recovering from a Covid diagnosis’s at the time of the incident.

With reports suggesting that not dealing with his sexuality “is at the root” of his problems, Mr Lindsey argued that Cook “is someone who is crying out for help,” submitting that while many members of the public “may say that this man deserves to go into custody…one could say that will result in the destruction of this man because he has serious mental health conditions.”

Jailing Cook, Judge Lynch said he had to balance those factors “against the serious nature of the offending” in that it occurred in the middle of the afternoon, “in a popular public park where one would expect members of the public to be present, including children.”

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