Belfast Telegraph

Ex-police photographer who abused girls to be sentenced

Convictions: William McConnell
Convictions: William McConnell

By Paul Higgins

A former police photographer from Co Tyrone who sexually abused two young sisters still denies spying on an adult third victim, a court heard yesterday.

Defence counsel Ian Turkington told Newry Crown Court that while William McConnell (62) "offers an apology" to all three of his victims, he still denies that he secretly recorded a woman while she was changing her clothes at a glamour photoshoot.

At an earlier hearing McConnell, from Church Square in Sion Mills, had entered guilty pleas to two counts of indecent assault, one against each sister.

He also admitted two counts of having indecent images of both girls.

In court yesterday prosecuting counsel Fiona O'Kane said that the voyeurism offence was uncovered when one of the sisters reported to police that McConnell had taken "lots of images of her when she was approximately 15 and during the photo sessions, the defendant indecently touched her".

Similar allegations were made by the victim's sister.

Ms O'Kane revealed that when police were examining images taken and stored by McConnell, they also discovered an indecent video of children, but told the court the defendant had been given a police caution for that earlier this year.

Ms O'Kane urged Judge Gordon Kerr QC to give "serious consideration" to imposing a sexual offences prevention order (Sopo) given McConnell's "continued denials" of the voyeurism offence.

Lodging his plea in mitigation, Mr Turkington revealed that as well as working as a photographer for the police for 12 years - during which time he recorded fatal car crashes and other crime scenes - McConnell had been a soldier for 26 years, rising to the rank of quartermaster sergeant, and was essentially deaf in one ear having been caught up in two bombings.

"He is a man who has served his community in a significant way," said the lawyer, who also conceded that given the nature of the offences, "there's certainly a thread of taking advantage of younger and more impressionable people".

McConnell's lawyer argued that a Sopo was neither necessary nor proportionate as he had not committed any similar offences in the last four years, and suggested to Judge Kerr that he could impose a suspended jail sentence or orders for probation and community service.

Releasing McConnell on bail, Judge Kerr said he would pass sentence next Wednesday.

"I always consider it appropriate in cases of this nature involving significant public interest that the court takes time to reflect," the judge said.

On the second, separate indictment, which McConnell had contested at a trial in Belfast Crown Court last January, a jury convicted him of voyeurism on February 27, 2014 when he secretly recorded a woman during a photoshoot.

The footage showed the woman posing in a number of different tops, but also shows that each time she changed her top, McConnell left the room.

It was the Crown case, however, that McConnell secretly recorded the woman on a second camera for the purposes of sexual gratification.

Giving evidence on his own behalf, McConnell denied deliberately recording the unsuspecting woman during the photoshoot.

Despite his denials, the jury convicted him of voyeurism.

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