Schoolchildren may have been left with long-term trauma after a Ballarat man touched himself in front of a school fence, the Ballarat Magistrates' Court was told.
Gregory Chapman, 55, was convicted and sentenced to a total of 17 months in prison, with an eight month non-parole period, after pleading guilty to a number of charges, including sexual offences and indecent conduct in public.
He will be placed on the sex offenders register for eight years.
The court was told Chapman, an East Timor veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was a heavy alcoholic.
In May 2020, following a dispute with his defacto partner, he resisted arrest and injured two police officers before being taken to hospital - he then breached an intervention order by phoning his former partner a week later.
On June 12, 2020, Chapman approached a Ballarat school, where three children were playing inside the fence.
The Courier will not identify the school.
Chapman attempted to reach through the fence to the children, and made lewd comments to a child and grabbed his genitals before they ran to get a teacher.
Chapman then walked away - a witness then saw him afterwards performing a sex act while leaning against a wall within sight of the playground, and immediately contacted staff.
Highway Patrol officers found Chapman at a nearby bus stop, where his identity was confirmed.
Officers noted a hole had been cut into his trackpants, and he was not wearing underwear.
He was later taken to hospital, but he absconded - a warrant was then executed and Chapman was arrested.
Prosecutor Leading Senior Constable Simon Pearce said Chapman's actions had "a significant effect on each complainant and the witness".
His defence lawyer conceded Chapman was facing serious charges and a term of imprisonment, but noted Chapman's ongoing struggle with his mental health, including depression, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.
"The real issue here for the accused is alcohol, that's the third party in every offence," he said.
"He doesn't recall the event, he insists he was drunk for three days prior to this, a "real serious binge".
"He believes he engaged in this conduct to get himself locked up - he's succeeded pretty well."
Magistrate Daniel Muling noted psychiatric reports stated Chapman's risk of reoffending remained "medium to high" unless he stopped drinking, as well as the effect of his tours in East Timor, where he witnessed "many traumatic events".
"My assessment is you are not beyond redemption," he told Chapman.
"You can make the changes required, but as you know you it is not like turning a light on and off.
"You cannot drink alcohol ever again in your life.
"We don't know what impact it will have on the children, it's reasonable to assume it will be long term."
Chapman was sentenced to 15 months for the sexual offending, with another two months added for the other charges.
Chapman has already served 42 days in prison.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, phone Lifeline 13 11 14.
Help is also available, but not limited, via the following organisations. The key message is you are not alone.
- Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au
- Suicide Callback Service: 1300 659 467
- Mensline: 1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au
- Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
- Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
- headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
- Soldier On: 1300 620 380
- Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
- QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people)
- Family violence: 1800 RESPECT
- Veterans support: Open Arms 1800 011 046 - 24 hours a day, seven days a week or visit www.openarms.gov.au
- For Aboriginal crisis support: Yarning SafeNStrong, 1800 959 563 (noon to 10pm)
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