A LITHUANIAN man living in West Cork has been jailed for nine months after he admitted making sexual advances towards a 17-year-old girl whom he picked up while she was trying to hitch a lift home.
Judge Sean Ó Donnabháin said that it was important that people who hitch-hike feel safe as he sentenced Petras Petrikauskas (42) to 18 months in jail, with the last nine months suspended.
Petrikauskas from Newbridge Park, Skibbereen pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to offensive conduct of a sexual nature near Skibbereen on March 5th 2017 contrary to Section 45 of the Sexual Offences Act 2017.
The judge said: ‘It is essential that people be protected when they are hitch-hiking – I come from an older generation but hitch-hiking is still an innocent and legitimate way of getting about and it needs to be protected.’
Det Gda Martin Bohane told how the teenager was hitching out of Skibbereen when Petrikauskas passed her in the opposite direction only to turn around and come back and collect her.
He didn’t ask her where she was going but he told her that as a young girl she shouldn’t be hitching as it was getting dark but she became concerned when he gave her a smarmy smile and she felt him starting to stare at her constantly.
He left her off in a quiet spot but returned 10 minutes later and she reluctantly got into the car only for him to tell her she was a good looking girl, asked if she had a boyfriend and told her: ‘You are going to give me a hand job.’
The girl refused and opened the car door so he stopped and she got out of the car and made her way to a nearby house where she saw lights on, from where she contacted her mother who came to collect her.
Less than a week later, the girl contacted gardai and made a statement giving them a description of Petrikauskas and his car and gardaí began their investigation.
Det Garda Bohane said that gardai obtained CCTV footage and they were able to identify his car and trace him and they arrested him for questioning on March 16th 2018.
Petrikauskas initially denied picking up the girl but on his second interview, he admitted seeing a pretty girl hitching and stopping to give her a lift.
Det Garda Bohane said that Petrikauskas had three previous convictions for public order offences but they were each of a sexual nature in that it involved him masturbating in a public places in front of teenage girls and boys.
He said the offences all occurred over a three-day period in 2013 and had been dealt with a District Court level where he was first given the probation act, then fined €500 and given a suspended sentence in the case of the third offence.
The girl told in her victim impact statement that she was very frightened by the incident and it made her afraid of going out on her own. She said she had not been sleeping well as a result of the incident but she was glad she reported it as she didn’t want anything similar to happen to anyone else.
Defence barrister William Bulman said his client wanted to apologise and had €1,200 in court to offer her but Judge Ó Donnabháin said she didn’t have to state publically if she wanted to accept it. Mr Bulman pleaded for leniency, saying that Petriskauskas would lose his job in a company in Dunmanway if he was sent to jail.
But the judge said that it was disturbing and distressing behaviour and what was particularly worrying that he had engaged in similar behaviour in 2013.
Petriskauskas’s behaviour had had a traumatic effect on the young girl which had left her frightened and insecure to the point that she doubted whether she would actually be able to come to court to give her victim impact statement, the judge said.
He made an order prohibiting the reporting of any details that would identify the injured party, following confirmation by the West Cork State solicitor Malachy Boohig that the girl did not want to be identified.