Friday 17 November 2017

Former hotel manager filmed children using camera hidden in bathroom clock

Stock photo
Stock photo

John Cassidy

A former Belfast hotel manager was jailed on Friday for six months for spying on friends with a secret camera hidden inside a clock in his bathroom.

Belfast Crown heard that among Patrice Renault's voyeurism victims was a five-year-old boy who was recorded washing in the shower.

French-born Renault (44), from the Lisburn Road in south Belfast, had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of voyeurism and one of installing equipment for voyeurism.

He further pleaded guilty to ten charges of making indecent images of children and three counts of possessing extreme pornographic images.

Renault sobbed in the dock as prosecution barrister Simon Jenkins told the court that officers from the National Crime Agency and the PSNI called at the defendant's home in February 2016 to conduct a search following suspicions he had indecent images of children.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC was told that Renault handed over his laptop, a computer and passwords for both devices which were later forensically exmained.

The court heard that although Renault admitted possessing indecent images of children, he did not tell police about the voyeurism videos.

Mr Jenkins said the search of his computer equipment revealed almost 1,000 indecent images and extreme pornographic videos. The majority of the material related to boys aged 12-15 but also included a boy of five being sexually abused.

Officers also discovered 1,135 voyeurism videos which Renault had recorded by putting a spycam inside a clock which he placed beside the toilet in his bathroom.

Renault admitted to police that the 15 people he secretly recorded were friends who had mostly come over from France to stay with him.

One video related to a five-year-old boy "who was being showered by his father'' in Renault's bathroom.

The prosecutor told the judge: "He told police that when he knew his friends were coming to stay with him he would start recording. None of them were aware that they were being covertly recorded. He subsequently informed all of the people recorded about his actions.''

At the time of his arrest, Renault was the manager of a hotel in Belfast city centre. When his offending came to light he was sacked.

Defence barrister Jonathan Brown said Renault told a probation officer that "he didn't think he was doing anything wrong'' in relation to the voyeurism.

But the judge interjected, saying: "How any right thinking person can hold such a view is baffling. It is a very distorted form of thinking.''

Mr Brown added: "He has a very distorted thinking. He has now suffered a meteoric fall from grace. He is a now a broken and isolated man.

"If you were to put him into prison with his distorted thinking, his thinking will become more distorted with all the other inmates held in a custody establishment in Northern ireland.''

Judge Miller said the voyeurism offences were a "gross breach of trust'' which Renault carried out for "his own sexual gratification''

He said Renault's offending showed he had a "warped mentality of a deviant sexual nature''.

Sentencing Renault to two years, the judge said the defendant would spend six months in custody followed by 18 months on supervised licence and recommended to the Minister of Justice that the defendant take part in all programmes deemed necessary by the Probation Service on his release from jail.

Renault was made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 10 years and the court granted a disposal order all material seized.

Belfast Telegraph

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