Sunday 23 October 2016

Former political advisor who hid camera in office toilets' pot pourri jailed for four months

Paul Higgins

Published 30/09/2015 | 17:42

David McConaghie was an aide to DUP MP David Simpson. Mr McConaghie denies making recordings for sexual gratification
David McConaghie was an aide to DUP MP David Simpson. Mr McConaghie denies making recordings for sexual gratification

A disgraced former aide to a DUP MP who secreted a camera in the constituency office toilets for sexual thrills was jailed for four months today.

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Jailing 50-year-old David McConaghie at Craigavon Magistrates Court, District Judge Mervyn Bates said he saw no alternative but to jail the former pastor who to this day, has yet to offer any explanation or justification for hiding a camera in the toilets of the DUP Portadown constituency office.

Also imposing a sexual offences prevention order and ordering McConaghie to sign the police sex offenders register for seven years, Judge Bates told the deviant that suspending the jail term "has no attraction."

Following an application from defence barrister Michael Tierney however, the judge released McConaghie, from Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, on bail pending an appeal of the sentence and his conviction for voyeurism on dates between August 22 and September 13, 2012.

Standing in the dock with his hands clasped in front of him, McConaghie showed little or no reaction as Judge Bates said his continued denial of his crimes "leave me uncertain" that probation rehabilitation would be of any benefit.

At the end of his contest last month, the judge said he had no doubt McConaghie had "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 there 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 Simpsons 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  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.

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 within 24 hours of the camera being discovered.

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 gave 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.

Today, a prosecuting lawyer reminded the court that throughout the police investigation, McConaghie had remained resolutely silent, answering police questions with "no comment."

Havknf previously described McConaghie's actions as "premeditated and preplanned," the lawyer today (wed) submitted there were multiple aggravating features attached to his behaviour.

When he convicted McConaghie, Judge Bates had 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."

The judge said there is a "considerable degree of aggravation" in that McConaghie had breached the trust placed in him, had placed a "significant degree of planning" in hiding the camera and had recorded the images.

As part of the SOPO, Judge Bates barred McConaghie from owning or possessing any device capable of taking photographs or record of video footage, from taking up a job or residing anywhere without prior approval from his Designated Risk Manager.

Releasing the pervert on bail, the judge made it a condition that McConaghie cannot have any contact with anyone connected to the DUP.

Belfast Telegraph

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