A man who masturbated in front of a mum on the school run has escaped a prison sentence.
Robert Merrylees, 57, appeared at Swindon Magistrates’ Court today (9 June) having previously pleaded guilty to a charge of outraging public decency.
Prosecutor Keith Ballinger said a woman was taking her two children to school on 20 September last year, when she stopped to visit The Co-operative Food store in Broomfield, Chippenham.
On returning to her vehicle, she noticed a naked man – now identified as Merrylees – standing in the doorway of a block of flats immediately opposite the shop at about 8.30am.
Wearing only an open dressing gown, Mr Ballinger said the defendant was seen to be holding his penis and “moving his hand in typical motion of someone who was masturbating”.
Despite the vile act being carried out just 20 metres from her children, they did not witness it. The woman said he looked her straight in the eyes and continued to pleasure himself.
Following his arrest, Merrylees told police that he had looked out of his flat window and spotted a woman wearing a short skirt in the street.
He said he’d become sexually aroused as a result and proceeded to leave his flat through the communal front door before loosening his dressing gown and masturbating on his doorstep.
Merrylees accepted that the woman would have been disgusted by his behaviour but he admitted the offence in interview because he believed he would receive a caution as a result.
The court heard that the defendant was convicted of indecently exposing himself to two 17-year-old girls in Chippenham in 1999 and doing the same to an ambulance technician in 2001. Merrylees has not been convicted of any other offences between then and today.
Terry McCarthy, defending, said his client has “undiagnosed mental health issues”, which he said should be “explored” by the probation service.
He said Merrylees, of Broomfield, “accepts that what he did was not normal”, adding that he understands his “behaviour was abnormal”.
Chief magistrate Jane Flew said the defendant carried out an act which “members of the public would find deeply distressing, and children could have seen it”.
The bench imposed a 12-month community order with one requirement – that he completes 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.
Miss Flew said she believed the “onerous order” will restrict Merrylees’ personal liability.
The court didn’t award any prosecution costs because of the defendant’s limited means, though he will have to pay a £95 surcharge.
Whilst the offence was sexual in nature, a conviction for outraging public decency does not require a person to register as a sex offender.
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