Solicitor shot footage of woman in leisure centre cubicle, court is told
A Belfast-based solicitor has appeared in court charged with taking video footage of a young woman in the cubicle of a unisex changing room in one of the city's leisure centres.
Richie Shaw MacRitchie (31) is accused of using his mobile phone to record four video clips of the young woman in the cubicle after she had enjoyed a swim at the Falls Road Leisure Centre last October.
The young woman, who cannot be named, told police she felt "disgusted" that her privacy had been invaded by the man operating the mobile phone in the cubicle next to hers. She informed staff at the leisure centre she spotted a hand holding the mobile phone under her cubicle when she reached on to the floor for her socks.
MacRitchie, a father of one whose address was given as Ardmullan in Omeath in the Republic of Ireland, was subsequently charged with operating equipment with the intention of enabling another person to observe, for the purpose of sexual gratification, a third person doing a private act knowing that person did not consent.
The charge of operating equipment for the purpose of voyeurism comes under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
During a hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday, Crown prosecutor David McClean said MacRitchie - who at the time of the offence worked for the Non-Profit Lawyers based at Conway Street - used his mobile phone to record the footage.
Mr McClean said that after the woman alerted staff to the situation, her boyfriend asked MacRitchie to hand over his phone. The police arrived and arrested the accused on suspicion of voyeurism on October 23 last year. He made no reply.
Reading a statement the young woman made to the PSNI, Mr McClean told the court she had been in the cubicle with her two-year old niece when she noticed the hand holding the phone.
She said that when her boyfriend asked MacRitchie what he was doing, the lawyer said: "It's not what it seems."
She also told police: "I feel very upset and concerned about what has happened. I feel my privacy has been invaded. I feel disgusted by what this man has done."
Mr McClean said that when interviewed by the PSNI, MacRitchie admitted using his mobile phone to take several video clips of the woman in the cubicle next to his.
Telling police, "I am sorry and I realise I shouldn't have done it" , he also expressed concerns that his actions had placed his career in jeopardy.
He apologised for upsetting the young woman, saying his actions were " spur of the moment", adding: "I don't know what came over me." He denied his actions were motivated by sexual gratification.
Defence barrister Eilish McDermot said there was no evidence to suggest MacRitchie's actions were sexually motivated or that the woman in question was carrying out a private act.
Resident Magistrate Fiona Bagnall said she wished to examine the legislation surrounding the charge against MacRitchie in more detail. She said she would make a ruling which she would deliver today.