A Co Armagh man who spied on his partner’s daughter as she showered has been given community service and placed on probation after admitting seven counts of voyeurism.
The man, who is in his 50s and cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, appeared at Newry Crown Court on Friday for sentencing, via videolink from Maghaberry Prison.
He had previously pleaded guilty to the voyeurism offences, namely, recording a person doing a private act for sexual gratification, which took place over a five-month period between April 15, 2019 and September 19, 2019.
The court heard that on September 18, 2019, the victim was taking a shower and observed what appeared to be a mobile phone over the bathroom door.
The only other person in the house was the defendant, her mother’s partner, who had been living there since 2017.
She shouted “what are you doing?” and there was no answer but she could see the phone had been taken down.
The victim got out of the shower and went onto the landing, where she the saw the defendant who claimed to be working on the smoke alarm.
His Honour Judge Kerr QC said the victim was “extremely shocked and distressed” and hid in her room for a period of time.
She eventually ran shoeless from the house, hid behind a bush and phoned her mother, who arrived and found her “crying and shaking”.
She told her mother she was concerned the defendant had been videoing her.
When her mother challenged the defendant, he repeated that he was just testing the smoke alarm. She told him to get out of the house and to give her the phone. She checked it but found nothing relevant.
When the defendant returned to the house later that day by arrangement, he eventually admitted, after repeated denials, that he had held a phone up to the glass door but denied taking any photos, videos or having any sexual intent.
The victim’s mother ended the relationship immediately and told him to move out.
Two days later, a small camera was located in the defendant’s bedside locker. The family grew more concerned about potential other incidents and contacted the police.
A search of his phone revealed 63 deleted photographs taken on 15 different occasions of the injured party.
Most were of her naked in the shower and another of her lying sleeping in her bedroom in her underwear.
During interview, the defendant admitted taking photographs of her, and of attempting to take one of her in the shower on the day he was challenged.
He claimed he had become obsessed with her and wanted to see what she looked like naked. He denied any sexual gratification and described it as a “crush”.
He said he was sorry for the hurt caused, was getting help and could not explain why he had done it.
The judge said a victim impact statement showed the “severe impact that this appalling behaviour had on the young victim” and that it caused distress not just to her but to her mother and led to the break-up of what, until then, had appeared to be a family unit.
He noted the victim was a child and that the defendant was in an assumed position of trust.
Judge Kerr noted that, in mitigation, the defendant had expressed remorse and accepted full responsibility. A pre-sentence report said he was very cognisant of the harm he had caused.
He also voluntarily took counselling sessions and had a good working history, with two character references provided.
Judge Kerr said that rather than impose a prison term of 12 months, he would make an enhanced combination order, consisting of 100 hours of community service and two years on probation.
He also issued a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for five years, saying he found the behaviour “extremely concerning” and that the Probation Service had assessed the defendant as being at a medium risk of offending.
The defendant was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register for five years.