Thursday 24 October 2019

Teen guilty of taking upskirt videos of teachers caused significant 'emotional' impact to victims' lives - court

Timothy Boomer
(Niall Carson/PA)
Timothy Boomer (Niall Carson/PA)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A teenager found guilty of taking upskirt videos of two teachers left his victims feeling violated, objectified and vulnerable, a judge has said.

Timothy Boomer, 18, was sentenced to a 20-hour restorative order on Tuesday following his conviction for five counts of outraging public decency in relation to covert footage he took as a schoolboy in Co Fermanagh.

Noting the teachers' victim impact statements, District Judge Michael Ranaghan told Enniskillen youth court the crimes had a significant "emotional and physical" impact on the women's work and family life.

Afterwards, the NASUWT teaching union called for law changes to make upskirting a specific offence in Northern Ireland.

The union said the two women had been left with post-traumatic stress disorder.

It also heavily criticised how Enniskillen Royal Grammar School handled the issue after Boomer was made a prefect for moving images arts after the videos were discovered.

At a sentencing hearing at Enniskillen youth court, a panel of magistrates ordered Boomer to complete a 20-hour attendance centre order. The restorative order, overseen by the Youth Justice Agency, will focus on the impact on the victims.

Boomer sat in front of the two teachers in the public gallery of the court as Judge Ranaghan outlined the panel's sentencing decision. The judge said the order would help Boomer "understand the serious and significant impact of his actions".

He acknowledged that the teenager, now a student in Wales, had shown remorse.

"There has been clear and genuine remorse from Mr Boomer which appears to have strengthened with time," he said.

In February, Boomer was found guilty by the panel of committing acts of a lewd, obscene and disgusting nature and outraging public decency by making the video recordings.

The incidents happened at the school in 2015 and 2016 when Boomer was aged 14 and 15.

The offences came to light when he was 16, and he turned 18 during the legal proceedings.

His defence barrister, Frank O'Donoghue QC, stressed that Boomer is now a different person, four years on from the first offence.

The lawyer said Boomer had never denied committing the offences and appreciated they were "offensive" and "morally wrong".

"He's a very different person from the person he was at the time of the commission of these offences," said Mr O'Donoghue. "He has a deep sense of remorse and shame."

The lawyer said the case had attracted unprecedented notoriety for a youth court disposal, which had impacted on Boomer and his family.

For the offence of outraging public decency to be successfully prosecuted it must be established that it was committed in a public place.

The NI Public Prosecution Service initially decided not to pursue the case, amid uncertainty about whether a school was a public place.

That move was set for a judicial review, but prosecutors changed their mind and mounted the prosecution before a High Court case was heard.

Outside court, Justin McCamphill, national official for the NASUWT in Northern Ireland, said the prosecution was "groundbreaking" as it had established that schools were public places.

"Our two members have a sense of relief that the case is finally over," he said.

"They have felt vindicated in what they have had to fight for. They have had to fight for two years to have this case heard in the first place.

"They are feeling content that the conviction has taken place but they are now resolved that they are going to push for a change in legislation across Northern Ireland so others in future don't have to go through what they have gone through.

"These five incidents when the members were videoed and how they were dealt with has led to our members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It has had an immense impact on them in relation to how they actually go about their daily lives. They feel vulnerable, they worry that people maybe out there have seen these videos and it is something that is always on their minds.

"There are big questions in relation to how the school handled this situation.

"One of the things that's concerned us is how the school has treated the members in relation to how they have treated the perpetrator. One of the big things has been the fact that Timothy Boomer was made a prefect for moving images arts. We find that absolutely incredible.

"It has made our members really feel that their employer was not supporting them in this."

Mr McCamphill said the union would press for a law change.

"We do want wider law changes, we want a law that would make it a crime if any videoing or photographing of this nature happened on a non-consensual basis that that in itself should be an offence," he said.

A spokeswoman for Enniskillen Royal Grammar School said: "Given the highly sensitive nature of the issue for all concerned, it would not be appropriate for the school to comment."

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