Tuesday 20 March 2018

Toilet camera trial: 'No evidence' politician's aide used recordings for sexual purposes

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

It cannot be proved that a former aide to a DUP MP who allegedly recorded a female colleague going to the toilet did it for sexual kicks, his defence lawyer claimed.

The trial of 50-year-old David McConaghie was due to restart at Craigavon Magistrates Court on Monday where the former advisor the David Simpson MP is charged with voyeurism but instead, his defence lawyer submitted that the case should be dismissed as there was no evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he recorded a female colleague using the toilet for his own sexual gratification.

District Judge Mervyn Bates had already heard how a camera was found hidden in a pot of pot pourri, allegedly placed there by McConaghie, in the toilet of Mr Simpson's Portadown constituency office.

McConaghie, from Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, denies a single charge of voyeurism on dates between August 22 and September 13, 2012 in that for the purposes of sexual gratification, he allegedly recorded another person doing a private act knowing that the other person did not consent.

Giving evidence last month 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.

Following the defence submissions on Monday, Judge Bates adjourned the case to August 26 to allow the PPS time to consider their position.

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