Wednesday 23 October 2019

'Perverted' businessman from US jailed for taking upskirt video at Pride

A Dublin Pride flag on O’Connell Street.
A Dublin Pride flag on O’Connell Street.
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A "perverted" US businessman has been jailed for taking an upskirt video of a reveller at Dublin's Pride parade.

Russell Sykes (61) had come to Ireland on a business trip when he crouched down and used his phone to film up the woman's skirt during the festival at the weekend, leaving her crying and humiliated.

Sykes ran off when she confronted him but gardaí found an image on his phone when he returned to the parade after changing his T-shirt.

Judge Conal Gibbons said Sykes's explanation that he got "caught up in the atmosphere" was a "lame excuse" and jailed him for two months.

"The day is long gone when men can simply use, abuse and objectify women without their consent, for their own benefit or pleasure," Judge Gibbons said.

Sykes, a married father-of-two and software engineer from Fox Creek Drive, North Augusta, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature.

Garda Laura Burke told Dublin District Court the victim had been attending the parade on O'Connell Street on Saturday when Sykes was seen using his phone camera under the victim's skirt.

The victim, who is Irish, confronted him, but Sykes ran off. The accused returned to the area later and she recognised him. When Garda Burke asked to see his phone, she saw an image that had been taken up a skirt.

Sykes said he had got caught up in the atmosphere and it was a "stupid mistake".

Defence solicitor Michael Hanahoe said "on this particular occasion I couldn't help seeing some of the participants making their way back and there was a certain looseness of behaviour". It was a celebration of sexual liberation and there was "an atmosphere of looseness" with "sexual overtones", he said.

"I'll take your word for it, Mr Hanahoe, but I would have thought the word that is used is 'pride', and it shouldn't mean lewd or offensive behaviour," the judge said. "You see people dressing up in an exaggerated fashion... but that is a long distance from somebody doing what Mr Sykes did."

A probation officer who interviewed Sykes said he had arrived in Dublin on Saturday and had two glasses of wine at the airport, then another at his city centre hotel.

In her statement, the woman spoke of her humiliation and worry that a recording of her private person would be put "all over the internet".

"There is something perverted about the actions of your client, they cannot be the actions of sensible, serious-minded person," the judge told Mr Hanahoe. "To put it mildly, his behaviour is the very antithesis of Pride."

Irish Independent

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