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Ex-DUP adviser loses appeal over voyeurism conviction

By Paul Higgins

Published 17/12/2015

David McConaghie will spend Christmas in prison
David McConaghie will spend Christmas in prison

A former DUP adviser will be spending Christmas behind bars after a judge dismissed an appeal over his conviction for voyeurism.

David McConaghie was originally convicted of secretly recording a female colleague using the toilet after a trial at the end of September and jailed for four months.

The 50-year-old lodged appeals against both his conviction and sentence, but that was dismissed by County Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC.

McConaghie was a former adviser to Upper Bann MP David Simpson.

Convicting McConaghie for a second time, Judge Lynch told him: "The court expresses its revulsion towards your behaviour.

"You have shown no remorse. You seemed to have tried to imply there was a vendetta against you by persons unknown.

"You are incapable and unwilling to face up to your responsibilities."

Judge Lynch did, however, cut the original jail term by a month due to McConaghie's previously clear record.

Earlier he had watched footage secretly recorded in the toilet of the DUP constituency office as McConaghie placed his covert camera in a tub of potpourri - but McConaghie managed to record himself.

In his chambers before the appeal began at Craigavon courthouse, the judge saw recorded footage of the last person using the lavatory.

Giving evidence to the court, the woman revealed that she had suspicions of McConaghie as far back as January 2012, because he began hanging his suit jacket on the toilet door with the lens of his mobile phone camera pointing "directly at the toilet".

She told the court she asked McConaghie about it, but he "laughed it off".

Those suspicions were raised again when first one pot of potpourri and then another appeared in the shared bathroom and the woman testified that she continually moved the rectangular tub from the centre to the corner, but that it was always moved back.

She also described how she noticed that McConaghie was constantly using the toilet, as much as three times in an hour, but didn't appear to be drinking anything more than usual.

She and her colleague discovered the device in September 2012 and within 24 hours McConaghie had tendered his resignation to Mr Simpson.

She said at the original trial and again yesterday that when she saw a red light on the device "I immediately knew it was a camera", so she left the office and went to her parents' home, plugged the camera into their computer and uncovered the footage.

"I wasn't hysterical, but I didn't know what to think," the woman told the prosecuting lawyer. "I was really annoyed."

Asked directly if she had given anyone permission to record her in the loo, she declared: "Definitely not."

Having seen the footage of herself and McConaghie, she alerted Mr Simpson and he in turn contacted the police.

In what amounted to more or less a virtual rerun of the Magistrates Court hearing, although shorter in duration, the defence pressed the prosecution witnesses on how much they had discussed the case between themselves, although this was firmly rejected by both.

McConaghie avoided looking at any of the witnesses as they gave evidence, instead focusing directly ahead and occasionally examining his nails.

Mr Simpson was called to give evidence and he confirmed one of the victims had contacted him and asked for an urgent meeting after discovering the camera.

She handed over the device which Mr Simpson viewed for only a minute before he decided it was a police matter.

Arrested and interviewed, McConaghie remained tightlipped throughout, answering police questions with a steadfast "no comment", a stance he has maintained throughout.

In his final submissions yesterday defence lawyer Michael Tierney argued that an intention to obtain sexual gratification could not be proved, although he accepted "the device was placed in a toilet, involving a person engaging in a private act who had not given consent".

The lawyer added that while his client gave "no comment" replies at interview, "the question of sexual intent was never put to him" and he cautioned against drawing an adverse inference from McConaghie's silence, claiming "it is not an option to the court".

A final opportunity was given for McConaghie to give evidence, but again he declined.

Having deliberated in chambers for just 15 minutes, Judge Lynch told the court that "common sense should not be left at the door of the court".

"I have no doubt this was sexual," he said.

McConaghie was also ordered to sign the police sex offenders' register for seven years.

Belfast Telegraph

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