Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

No reaction, no explanation and no apology as DUP aide David McConaghie who used a secret camera to spy on women in toilet is convicted of voyeurism

How sordid surveillance was uncovered: Court told of the day female worker at MP's office found a video device hidden in potpourri by a colleague

By Paul Higgins

Published 27/08/2015

David McConaghie at court yesterday
David McConaghie at court yesterday
Video footage showing David McConaghie placing the hidden camera in the toilet

A disgraced former aide to a DUP MP faces up to six months in jail after he was convicted of voyeurism.

Standing in the dock of Craigavon Magistrates Court with his hands clasped in front of him, 50-year-old David McConaghie showed little or no reaction as District Judge Mervyn Bates said he had no doubt he "secreted" the sophisticated spy camera in a potpourri in the toilets of David Simpson's constituency office for his own sexual gratification.

He said that in addition to drawing inferences from McConaghie's silence throughout the investigation, Judge Bates told the court there was "more than sufficient evidence to satisfy me that you are guilty".

The judge told McConaghie his crime was aggravated by numerous factors including that the act represented a breach of the trust placed in him by others who worked in Mr Simpson's Upper Bann constituency office, the length of time it was carried out, and that it was a "deliberate attempt to observe someone that you knew well carrying out a private act".

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

Releasing McConaghie on continuing bail, the judge adjourned passing sentence for five weeks and ordered probation pre-sentence reports.

He told McConaghie, a onetime prominent Orangeman and church minister, that depending on what sentence he passes, he may have to sign the police sex offenders register "for at least five years".

After McConaghie left the court he remained silent, refusing to comment on his conviction or offer an apology to his victim.

Giving evidence last June 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 potpourri 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 that she kept noticing the pot being moved out again.

At lunchtime 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 that 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 potpourri 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 refilled 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.

When she viewed the device the only thing she saw was it being placed by McConaghie in the pot.

The witness told of meeting with Mr Simpson and explaining the sequence of events to him.

She thought that they could maybe just talk about it 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", 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.

Mr Simpson also gave 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's recording on a laptop. For 20 to 30 seconds he saw images on it and stopped, saying he needed to hand it over to the PSNI.

Mr Simpson said the accused rang him and they arranged to meet at which 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.

Defence barrister Michael Tierney had argued that the case should be dropped, submitting there was no evidence that McConaghie had placed the secret camera in the toilet for sexual gratification despite the police searching his home and trawling through his internet history.

Judge Bates dismissed that application, telling the court there was "absolutely no evidence" of it being there for any other purpose.

The application having been dismissed, it was at that stage that McConaghie could have taken the witness box to provide some other explanation, but having consulted with his client, Mr Tierney said McConaghie was "exercising his right" not to give evidence and confirmed he had been advised regarding the potential adverse inferences to be drawn from his silence.

Summing the case up, Judge Bates declared: "Any right-thinking person, in my view, who saw the footage I saw in chambers and the footage I saw of you involved with this equipment would be drawn to the conclusion that there really is no justification beyond sexual gratification."

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph