April 2023

Solicitor convicted of indecent exposure and banned from wearing shorts after repeatedly flashing schoolgirls while out running is struck off

A solicitor who was convicted of indecent exposure and banned from wearing shorts after he repeatedly flashed schoolgirls while out running has been struck off.

Mark Pittaway left young girls feeling ‘scared’, ‘targeted’ and suffering from PTSD after he exposed himself to them between January 2018 and May 2021, a tribunal heard. 

He was convicted of five counts of indecent exposure involving exposing his genitals to cause alarm or distress after a trial at West Dorset Magistrates’ Court.

Now, after being hauled in front of a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, he has been struck off for ‘deliberately targeting vulnerable female victims’ and the ‘immense’ impact it has had on them.

The panel concluded his conduct was ‘totally unbecoming of a member of the solicitors’ profession’.

Pittaway, who had worked as a solicitor since 1986 and at Thursfields Legal Limited at the time of offending, self reported himself to the Solicitors Regulation Authority in October 2021.

He warned that he had been charged with five offences of indecent exposure by police for incidents dating back to 2018, something that ‘may attract media attention’.

He repeated his offending between January 2018 and May 2021, and targeted one ‘nearly every day for two years’, the tribunal heard. 

In his report he said the incidents had occurred while he was out running near his home in Portland, Dorset, and included CCTV and eyewitness evidence from school girls.

However, he denied all the charges, claiming as a ‘seasoned runner’, any exposure would have been ‘purely accidental’ and as a result of the ‘length of his shorts’.

Upon viewing of the CCTV footage he ‘conceded that his genitals were on display’ – but had not known at the time and must only have occurred when his shorts ‘hitched up’ as he scratched his groin area.

In March 2022, after a trial at West Dorset Magistrates’ Court, he was convicted of the offences and sentenced to a suspended prison sentence, a 12 week curfew with electronic tag, 20 rehab requirement days and 250 hours unpaid work.

He was also made subject of a five-year sexual harm prevention order, making it compulsory for any exercise in a public place to be carried out in trousers, or shorts ‘that are no shorter than knee length and that have no front fastenings’.

Pittaway was also banned from running on weekdays between the hours ad 7am and 9am and 2.30pm to 4.30pm and within sight of any school premises.

At the tribunal, he offered no mitigation for the offences which he had previously denied.

One of the schoolgirl witnesses, known only as person A, offered her victim impact statement to the tribunal.

She said: ‘Nearly everyday for two years, this man would flash his genitals to me. I was in school, walking to and from school – it was horrible.

‘I would go to school scared and frightened of what will happen to me. I thought he would’ve raped me or done stuff to me.’

She added: ‘I have never been so scared in my life. lt has degraded me as a woman and I felt targeted. When it first happened I was fourteen years old – I was a child. 

‘No girl should ever go through that.’

The victim said the incidents left her so ‘upset and scared’ that she couldn’t walk to school. She continued: ‘I now suffer PTSD from this and I always will.’

Another girl, known as person B, said she was left ‘so uncomfortable’ and ‘scared’ she would ‘always make sure she was with someone or got a lift’.

The panel found Pittaway’s admitted conduct had been ‘disgraceful’ and ‘totally unbecoming of a member of the solicitors’ profession’.

While sentencing him, the tribunal described the impact of his offending as having been ‘immense’, finding the ‘the location and timing of the offences was deliberate and that he was deliberating targeting vulnerable female victims’.

They continued: ‘This was not a case in which Pittaway’s behaviour had little or no nexus with his professional life.

‘His criminal conviction was of a degree and nature entirely incompatible with maintaining the reputation of the profession in the eyes of the public.

‘The serious circumstances of this case required no lesser sanction than strike off.’

The tribunal ordered that Pittaway be struck off the Roll of Solicitors. He was also ordered to pay the ‘costs of and incidental to this application and enquiry fixed in the agreed sum of £2,850.’