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Portadown photographer avoids prison despite ‘one of most audacious acts of voyeurism court has seen’

Omagh Courthouse. Photo: Kenneth Allen

A Portadown photographer has been sentenced in what the Judge described as “one of the most audacious acts of voyeurism the court has ever seen”.

Christopher McSherry, of Drumnagoon Meadows, appeared in the dock for sentencing at Omagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

While McSherry had initially pleaded guilty to a charge of unauthorised access to computer material, at an earlier hearing at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court he was convicted – after pleading not guilty – of six counts of voyeurism against two women.

Deputy District Judge Trainor sentenced the 35-year-old to a combination order comprising 200 hours of community service and 18 months of probation, alongside imposing a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for a period of five years.

At the outset of Tuesday afternoon’s hearing, the facts of the case were outlined by the prosecution.

The court was told that on August 8, last year, police attended a report of unauthorised access to computer material. They were informed that in 2019, the defendant’s family had discovered images on a tablet that he’d been using.

The images were saved to a Google account in his name and appeared to have been uploaded to the account in May 2018, subsequently being sent to the deleted folder in the account on February 23, 2019, two days after he was made aware the images were discovered.

The images appeared to be of an explicit nature and appeared to have been intercepted from Facebook Messenger without permission.

There were also images of two unknown women in a state of undress, which appeared to have been captured without consent when the women were within the privacy of their own homes.

On October 18, 2022, the defendant made admissions at interview to the unauthorised access of the computer material and also to capturing the images of the two other women without their consent.

He conceded that he had captured the images over a period of three months but suggested there was no sexual motive.

He then provided the names of the victims and the police recorded statements of complaint. From these statements he was informed the matter would be reported to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

In the course of interview, it was put to him that one of the victims stated she left her tablet in the house and the first time she became aware it may have been used was when she was blocked on Facebook by the defendant and other people.

The defendant stated that his mother had a similar tablet and he had accessed it thinking it was hers as he used to add things to it for her.

When he switched it on, he was prompted to connect the device to a Google account to update the device so he put in his account details.

He then said that “out of curiosity” he went into a group chat. No one knew he had it at this point and was reading it.

In relation to the initial photographs, he said he wasn’t aware of the photos being downloaded.

In 2019, he said he was making a slideshow of a holiday in Dublin and he had noticed the images on his Google Drive.

Barry McKenna BL, defending, said that it was accepted that these were “serious offences” and that the defendant accepted that the offending has had a “material impact” on the victims, adding that McSherry had instructed him to apologise to the victims on his behalf.

He continued that the defendant had said he came across the material by chance and that “there is no evidence to suggest otherwise”.

In mitigation, he outlined to the court the health and wellbeing circumstances of McSherry, whom he said “does not have good health”.

Deputy District Judge Trainor, passing his sentencing remarks, noted that the charges spanned a period of time and were a “continuous series of offences”.

He further noted that when the matter came to police attention, the defendant had contested the charges “in face of the fact that it was quite obvious you were guilty of them”.

He added that despite the “eloquently expressed” apology, it was clear that the defendant was “understating” his involvement in the matters and that the period of time over which he retained the images was concerning.

He continued: “On top of that, the audacious way in which you subjected that and other females to your intrusion into their lives and their property while they were within their own homes.

“It is in the view of this court, one of the most audacious acts of voyeurism that the court has ever seen.

“It appears that you have not acknowledged the impact of your offending behaviour on females who are not even aware of your presence in and around them.”

Conceding that McSherry had no relevant record and in account of his domestic and health circumstances, Judge Trainor imposed the combination order of 200 hours of community service and 18 months of probation.

A number of additional clauses included that he must reside in an approved address, must not communicate with the victims and must not own or use a device with photographic functions without prior approval.

Judge Trainor further imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for a period of five years in respect of the two victims named in the order.

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