Former political advisor guilty of hiding camera in pot pourri in office toilets
Published 27/08/2015 | 07:32
A disgraced aide to a DUP MP faces up to six months in jail after he was convicted of voyeurism yesterday.
Standing in the dock of Craigavon Magistrates Court with his hands clasped in front of him, 50-year-old David McConaghie showed little or no reaction as District Judge Mervyn Bates said he had no doubt he "secreted" the sophisticated spy camera in a pot pourri in the toilets of David Simpson's constituency office for his own sexual gratification.
He said that in addition to drawing inferences from McConaghie's silence throughout the investigation, Judge Bates told the court three was "more than sufficient evidence to satisfy me that you are guilty."
The judge told McConaghie his crime was aggravated by numerous factors including that the act represented a breach of the trust places in him by others who worked in David Simpson's Upper Bann constituency office, the length of time it was carried out and that it was a "deliberate attempt to observe someone that you knew well carrying out a private act."
Judge Bates being satisfied "beyond reasonable doubt," he convicted McConaghie, from Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, of the single charge of voyeurism on dates between August 22 and September 13, 2012 in that for the purposes of sexual gratification, he recorded another person doing a private act knowing that the other person did not consent.
Releasing McConaghie on continuing bail, the judge adjourned passing sentence for five weeks and ordered probation pre-sentence reports.
He told McConaghie, a onetime prominent Orangeman and church minister, that depending on what sentence he passes, he may have to sign the police sex offenders register "for at least five years."
Moments later as McConaghie left the court, he continued with his silence, refusing to comment on his conviction or to even offer an apology to his victim.
Giving evidence last June when the trial began, a woman who worked in the office said she had a discussion with another female worker about the unease she felt about the toilet facilities at work.
She said McConaghie had suggested some pot pourri for the toilet and one Monday morning he arrived with some in a square pot which was placed in the toilet.
Later another pot arrived and was also put in the toilet. One pot was round and the other square but both had holes in their sides.
The second pot was placed six inches from the corner directly facing the toilet. The other one was behind the door but when the door was closed the pot also faced the toilet.
The witness explained that when she used the toilet she would push the pot back into the corner because she thought this looked a bit tidier. She added however that she kept noticing the pot being moved out again.
At lunch time on September 12, 2012, she asked her co-worker if she had been moving the pot but she said no, adding that she then told her what she had been doing for a number of weeks.
She had been deliberately moving the pot into the corner and someone was deliberately moving it back out again.
The witness added that they agreed to bring some pot pourri back to the office, empty the pots and replace what was in them.
She said they went back to work and brought the pots down to the main office. When they were emptying the pots a device fell out. When she pushed a button a red light was illuminated and both of them were quite shocked.
She explained that they re-filled the pots and brought them back up to the toilet passing the defendant’s office. He was on the phone and then said ‘I have to go’.
She added that he seemed anxious to get into the bathroom and then he came down to the main office. She then went to her parents’ house to put the device in a laptop but had forgotten her house keys so she called back at the office.
When she viewed the device the only thing she saw was the device being placed by David McConaghie in the pot.
The witness told of meeting with David Simpson and explaining the sequence of events to him.
She thought that they could maybe just talk about this among those in the office but Mr Simpson said that was not an option as he had a duty of care to his staff.
On a Saturday, she continued, she met with Mr Simpson who said that McConaghie had handed in his resignation.
Asked about the video footage taken of her she said she felt ‘devastated’ and it was ‘very embarrassing’ and she was very disappointed because she thought so much of McConaghie.
The public prosecutor asked her if she had been aware of the device or given her consent.
“Absolutely not,” she replied.
After seeing just some images on the device that was found Upper Bann MP David Simpson said that it needed to be handed over to the PSNI.
The politician also have evidence and he told of speaking to the first witness about finding the recording device and when he went back to the office he placed it in a plastic bag, put in a drawer and locked it.
He added that he asked the witness to meet him again and they played the device on a laptop. For 20 to 30 seconds he saw images on it and stopped, saying he needed to hand this over to the PSNI.
Mr Simpson said the accused rang him and they arranged to meet at wish point McConaghie handed him an envelope which contained his letter of resignation.
The MP told of meeting with the PSNI and handing over the device, saying this was something that had ‘come out of the blue’.
The court also heard that of three CD's seized by cops, two contained video files and the third had 230 images with a detective sergeant who examined the device giving evidence that there were 216,373 images and 15 video files.
Defence barrister Michael Tierney had argued that the case should be dropped, submitting there was no evidence that McConaghie had placed the secret camera in the toilet for sexual gratification despite the police searching his home and trawling through his internet history.
On Wednesday however, Judge Bates dismissed that application, telling the court there was "absolutely no evidence" of it being there for any other purpose.
The application having been dismissed, it was at that stage that McConaghie could have taken the witness box to provide some other explanation but having consulted with the pervert, Mr Tierney said he was "exercising his right" not to and confirmed that he had been advised regarding potential adverse inferences to be drawn from his silence.
During closing submissions, the prosecuting lawyer said while the witnesses gave "credible" and reliable evidence, the footage from the camera itself was the "critical evidence," depicting as it did McConaghie taking time to set the camera up and adjust the angle of it to directly face the lavatory.
He said McConaghie's actions had been "premeditated and preplanned."
"There can be no doubt as to what the defendant was doing or why he was doing it," declared the lawyer who described the case against McConaghie as "overwhelming".
Mr Tierney argued that while the witnesses may not have "conspired" with each other, what was clear was that they had discussed what had happened and that may have tainted their accounts.
He again repeated that the prosecution had not proved the necessary element of the offence in that there was no evidence as to the intent of McConaghie, whether it was for sexual gratification or not, claiming that in three years of investigations, there was no evidence before the court that he was fascinated with any type of fetish activity.
Summing the case up however, Judge Bates declared: "Any right thinking person, in my view, who saw the footage I saw in chambers and the footage I saw of you involved with this equipment would be drawn to the conclusion that there really is no justification beyond sexual gratification."
Recounting how McConaghie refused to answer police questions at interview, lodge a defence statement or give evidence on his own behalf, the judge said he had chosen "not to elucidate if there was any other reason" for secreting the camera in the toilet other than for his own sexual kicks.
McConaghie having been convicted, the prosecution confirmed that he had an entirely clear criminal record which Judge Bates said was "no surprise."
David Simpson MP statement in full:
“I am making this one statement on what had been a very disturbing matter and will not be giving interviews or further commentary, as I do not wish to prolong what has been a horrendous ordeal for my staff.
I further request press respect this decision and refrain from attempting to contact either victims or witnesses.
The judge has made the correct decision whichI wholeheartedly welcome.
This has been an extremely difficult time for my staff, but particularly for the victims.
I wish to thank the PSNI and the PPS for their sensitive handling of this matter. Also my party colleagues for their support and the court staff for their kindness.
Most importantly, I thank my staff and pay tribute to their bravery in giving evidence and withstanding a harsh, invasive cross-examination.
I do not intend to make any further comment on this very distressing matter, save to say my staff will receive every support as they move on from their ordeal.”