Former aide to DUP MP jailed over camera in toilets

David McConaghie (50) hid device in bowl of pot pourri in constituency office

David McConaghie (50), a former Free Presbyterian pastor,  he was found guilty last month of voyeurism.

David McConaghie (50), a former Free Presbyterian pastor, he was found guilty last month of voyeurism.

 

A former aide to a DUP MP who hid a camera in the toilets of his employer’s constituency office has been jailed for four months.

At Craigavon Magistrates Court, District Judge Mervyn Bates said he saw no alternative but to jail David McConaghie (50), a former church pastor, after he was found guilty last month of voyeurism on dates between August 22nd and September 13th, 2012.

He said McConaghie has yet to offer any explanation or justification for hiding a camera in a bowl of pot pourri in the toilets of the Portadown constituency office of DUP MP David Simpson.

Imposing a sexual offences prevention order and ordering McConaghie to sign the police sex offenders register for seven years, Judge Bates said suspending the jail term “has no attraction”.

Following an application from defence barrister Michael Tierney the judge released McConaghie, from Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, on bail pending an appeal.

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 pot pourri for the toilet, and one Monday morning he arrived with some of this material 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 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.

Moved back again

She added, however, that she kept noticing the pot being moved out again.

At lunchtime on September 12th, 2012, she asked her co-worker if she had been moving the pot but she said no.

She said she told the workmate what she had been doing for a number of weeks - she had been moving the pot into the corner, and someone was deliberately moving it back out again.

The witness added that they agreed to bring some pot pourri back to the office, empty the pots and replace what was in them.

She said they subsequently 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 he seemed anxious to get into the bathroom, and then he came down to the main office.

She went to her parents’ house to attach the device to a laptop, but had forgotten her house keys so she called back at the office.

When she viewed what was contained on the device, the only thing she saw was the device being placed by David McConaghie in the pot.

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

She thought they could maybe just talk about this among those in the office, but Mr Simpson said this 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 told her McConaghie had handed in his resignation.

Asked about video footage taken of her, she said she felt “devastated” and it was “very embarrassing”, and she was very disappointed because she had thought so much of McConaghie.

The public prosecutor asked her whether she had been aware of the device or given her consent. “Absolutely not,” she replied.

After seeing just some images on the device that was found, Mr Simpson, an MP for Upper Bann, said it needed to be handed over to the PSNI.

When he gave evidence, the politician told of speaking to the first witness about finding the recording device. He went back to the office he placed it in a plastic bag, put it in a drawer and locked it.

He added that he asked the witness to meet him again and they played the device on a laptop. For 20 to 30 seconds he saw images on it and then stopped it, saying he needed to hand it to the PSNI.

Meeting with accused

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 the PSNI and handing over the device, saying the matter was something that had “come out of the blue”.

The court also heard that of three CDs seized by police, two contained video files and the third had 230 images, with a detective sergeant who examined the device giving evidence that there were 216,373 images and 15 video files.

Defence barrister Michael Tierney had argued 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.

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

During closing submissions, the prosecuting lawyer said while the witnesses gave “credible” and reliable evidence, the footage from the camera itself was the “critical evidence”, depicting as it did McConaghie taking time to set the camera up and adjust the angle of it to directly face the lavatory.

He said McConaghie’s actions had been “premeditated and preplanned”.

“There can be no doubt as to what the defendant was doing or why he was doing it,” declared the lawyer, who described the case against McConaghie as “overwhelming”.

Mr Tierney, defending, argued that while the witnesses may not have “conspired” with each other, what was clear was that they had discussed what had happened and that this may have tainted their accounts.

He reiterated that the prosecution had not proved the necessary element of the offence in that there was no evidence as to the intent of McConaghie, whether it was for sexual gratification or not, claiming that after three years of investigation there was no evidence before the court that he was fascinated with any type of fetish activity.

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.”