Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Secretly filmed teen girl has two weeks to appeal verdict

Richie MacRitchie: took video of teenager in pool changing cubicle

The 17-year-old girl who was secretly filmed in a swimming pool changing room by a solicitor says she has just two weeks to lodge an appeal after the case was dismissed.

The teenager told how she only learned of the outcome of the case when it was broadcast on the radio.

The girl, who is now 18, told a BBC Radio Ulster phone-in yesterday that the actions of solicitor Ritchie MacRitchie had wrecked her life. His case was dismissed because the video clips showed her wearing a bikini.

"I lost my place at college because I was off sick - I couldn't leave the house for a few weeks," she said.

"I can't sleep still, I have to take tablets to help me sleep. I can't go out clubbing with my friends, I can't wear the clothing my friends are wearing because I can't bear men looking at me - it's just destroyed my life altogether."

The teenager described how she was dressing with her young niece in a cubicle at the unisex changing room in the Fall Leisure Centre a year ago when she spotted what was going on.

"I was going down to pick my shoe up in the corner and I saw his hand and I shouted out to my boyfriend 'who's in there next door to me?'" she said.

"He shouted 'a man, why?' and I shouted 'well he's videoing me with his phone'. When my boyfriend asked him to come out, he wouldn't come out, so I ran out and I got the staff.

"They all crowded round and got him out and got the phone off him and then they held him until the police came."

The girl said she was given the number of a police officer but was unable to make contact for a number of weeks and eventually gave up.

She was later contacted by a member of the Public Prosecution Service and briefed on what was happening.

"I was on the phone to him last week and he was saying Monday was to set a date - it wasn't anything other than that because they had got all the evidence, got all their witnesses and what they were doing now was setting a date," she said.

"On Tuesday morning I was sitting and I heard the news on the radio. I don't know what way it works, but I am confused at the minute."

The girl said she had tried going back to a swimming pool but couldn't face going in.

"If he gets away with being innocent, he's going to do that again maybe, or other people are just going to keep on doing that," she said.

"I would like the law to be changed so that other people don't have to go through that."

She said she hadn't told friends because she was so embarrassed but has now decided to open up.

"I don't want other people to go through what I've went through. This man - people are meant to go to him for help."

It has emerged that MacRitchie is back at work at P Drinan Solicitors. When contacted, he said he did not want to discuss the case but added: "The fact that I was acquitted speaks for itself."

A committee of Belfast City Councillors last night recommended that Mr MacRitchie be banned from all of the city's parks and leisure centres.

However, the ban can only be enforced following agreement at a meeting of the full council.

"The feeling of people right across the city is somebody has to start a zero tolerance attitude," said Cllr Bob Stoker, chairman of the Parks and Leisure Committee.

Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers said Falls Leisure Centre is the only one to have the new village-style unisex changing areas, which were recommended as best practice by the Institute of Sport and Recreation.

A similar design is planned for the new Grove Wellbeing Centre, he said, adding that the policy needs to be reexamined.

"I have never been totally happy and I voiced my concerns well before the Falls swim centre plans were under way," he said.

The Law Society said it was reviewing the case and the evidence presented. MacRitchie could be taken before the Law Society Disciplinary Committee, charged with bringing the profession into disrepute.

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