An army veteran from Leyland who called two schoolgirls over to his car before performing a sex act in front of them has been jailed for 14 months.
Carl Holden, who served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan during a 22-year career as a tank mechanic, said he was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression.
But Judge Heather Lloyd said the 46-year-old’s “commendable existence” in the armed forces could not excuse the fact that he “shocked and appalled” two teenage girls in two separate incidents.
She said: “Clearly the fact that you may have had depression at the time is relevant, but there are those that suffer from depression for whatever reason and may have sexual problems for whatever reason.
“None of them necessarily resort to sexual offending against children.”
Preston Crown Court heard how police received a report of a man exposing himself to a 14-year-old girl in the Westgate area of Leyland, at around 7am on May 14. The frightened girl ran to a local shop for help.
Jeremy Grout-Smith, prosecuting, said a similar incident happened in Church Road, at around 9am on May 18.
He said the second girl, who was 15, was on her way to school to sit a GCSE exam, but was left “hysterical” and unable to complete the test.
He said: “She has been having nightmares. She wakes up every couple of hours, panicking and worrying.
“She said ‘I can’t walk on my own because I’m concerned about bumping into the man’.
“She feels in some way it was her fault, because she went over to the car as she thought the man wanted directions.”
Holden, of St John’s Green, Leyland, was arrested and charged with two offences of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.
The court heard he had three previous convictions for sexual offences in 1983, including indecent exposure when 18.
Hannah Wood, defending, said Holden joined the Army in 1989 and left last February.
She said he had been “suffering in silence” from PTSD, depression and intimacy problems with his wife. He has since lost his job, developed a drinking problem and sought professional counselling.
She said: “Mr Holden spent 22 years in the armed forces and has had difficult dealing with some of the experiences he had while on duty.
“He wishes me to convey his genuine remorse. He feels ashamed of his actions and understands he has traumatised his victims.”