Man (65) convicted for using ‘spy glasses’ at seaside near semi-naked toddler

Member of public spotted Christopher Hodgen pressing buttons to record image

District Judge Peter King said Hodgen had decided to travel to Portstewart having ‘armed yourself with a recording device’

District Judge Peter King said Hodgen had decided to travel to Portstewart having ‘armed yourself with a recording device’

 

A judge has praised a vigilant member of the public who spotted a man pressing buttons whilst holding the stem of a pair of glasses to try to record an image of a semi-naked three-year-old boy who was getting changed beside the seaside.

Christopher Hodgen (65), of Salisbury Court in Belfast, was detected at the Crescent area of Portstewart, where the child was with his mother in July this year.

Hodgen had denied the two charges he faced but was convicted at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday.

District Judge Peter King said Hodgen had decided to travel to Portstewart having “armed yourself with a recording device”.

The judge added that the design of the glasses and the way in which they were used by Hodgen were “fairly surreptitious”.

The defendant had previously entered not guilty pleas to charges of attempted voyeurism and attempting to take an indecent photo of a child.

The particulars of the attempted voyeurism charge were that he “attempted, for the purposes of sexual gratification, to record another person doing a private act knowing that the other person would not consent to being recorded”.

Shown the glasses

A prosecution lawyer told the court all the evidence in the case had been agreed and, after reading statements in his chambers, the judge was then shown the glasses used by Hodgen.

A defence barrister said he had no objections to the witnesses not appearing in court and added that although Hodgen “maintains his innocence”, the defendant did not wish to give evidence in court in his defence.

A prosecutor said a witness saw a man – Hodgen – in Portstewart and he was holding glasses by the stem and pushing buttons with a “red light” activated whilst a three-year-old boy who was “naked from the waist down” was getting changed nearby.

The court heard the glasses had audio and video capability and had been bought on July 26th.

The prosecutor said that during a police interview the defendant said he travelled to the area to watch a Hugo Duncan show.

Hodgen made no comment to questions about the glasses or his actions near a play area.

The prosecutor said when asked by police if there was an “innocent explanation”, there had again been no comment.

Camera

He said Hodgen had been “pushing buttons” in relation to a camera in the glasses, although no account was given as to whether he was trying to take a photograph or video.

Hodgen’s defence barrister said: “The factual matrix is not in dispute.”

Judge King said Hodgen had been given opportunities to comment, but the reason he didn’t was that he “had no answer” and again, in the dock, “you had no good explanation for the allegations before the court”.

The judge said inferences could be drawn from such silences and the outline of the facts in the statements were “compelling”.

The judge said: “You decided to travel to Portstewart having armed yourself with a recording device.”

He said the device was “fairly surreptitious” in its design and in the way the defendant used it.

The judge wished to commend a witness’s “public service” in informing the police, which had now resulted in Hodgen being convicted of both charges.

Sentencing has been adjourned until December for a pre-sentence report. The defendant was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register before leaving court.