MP adviser convicted of voyeurism

PACEMAKER BELFAST 3/11/2015'David McConaghie arrives at Craigavon Court on Tuesday.'The  former aide to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP David Simpson,  was convicted for voyeurism,  He is on bail after his lawyers lodged an appeal against his conviction.'Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 3/11/2015'David McConaghie arrives at Craigavon Court on Tuesday.'The former aide to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP David Simpson, was convicted for voyeurism, He is on bail after his lawyers lodged an appeal against his conviction.'Picture Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

A former adviser to a Northern Ireland MP will be spending Christmas behind bars after a judge convicted him of voyeurism and jailed him for three months.

David McConaghie was originally convicted of secretly recording a female colleague using the toilet after a trial at the end of September and jailed for four months.

The 50-year-old lodged appeals against both his conviction and sentence but they were dismissed by County Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC.

Convicting McConaghie, from Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, for a second time, Judge Lynch told him: “The court expresses its revulsion toward your behaviour. You have shown no remorse. You seemed to have tried to imply there was a vendetta against you by persons unknown. You are incapable and unwilling to face up to your responsibilities.”

Judge Lynch did, however, cut the original jail term by a month to take account of his previously clear record.

Earlier he had watched footage secretly recorded in the toilet of the Portadown DUP constituency office of Upper Bann MP David Simpson as McConaghie placed his covert camera in a tub of pot pourri, but he managed to record himself.

Before the appeal began at Craigavon courthouse, the judge watched recorded footage in his chambers which had captured the lady using the lavatory.

Giving evidence to the court, the lady revealed that she had suspicions of McConaghie as far back as January 2012 because he began hanging his suit jacket on the toilet door with the lens of his mobile phone camera pointing “directly at the toilet”.

She told the court she questioned McConaghie about it but he “laughed it off”.

Those suspicions were raised again when first one tub and then another of pot pourri appeared in the shared bathroom, and the lady testified that she continually moved the rectangular tub from the centre to the corner but that it was always moved back.

She also described how she noticed that McConaghie was constantly using the toilet, as much as three times in an hour, but didn’t appear to be drinking anything more than usual.

She and her colleague discovered the device on September 12 2012 and within 24 hours McConaghie had tendered his immediate resignation to Mr Simpson.

She said at the original trial and again on Wednesday that when she saw a red light on the device, “I immediately knew it was a camera” so she left the office and went to her parents’ home, plugged the camera into their computer and uncovered the footage.

“I wasn’t hysterical but I didn’t know what to think,” she told the prosecuting lawyer. “I was really annoyed.”

Asked directly if she had given anyone permission to record her in the toilet, she declared “definitely not”.

Having seen the footage of herself and McConaghie, she alerted Mr Simpson and he in turn contacted the police.

In what amounted to more or less a virtual rerun of the magistrates’ court hearing, although shorter in duration, the defence pressed the prosecution witnesses on how much they had discussed the case between themselves, although this was firmly rejected by both.

McConaghie avoided looking at any of the witnesses as they gave evidence, instead focusing directly ahead and occasionally examining his nails.

Mr Simpson was called to give evidence and he confirmed one of the victims had contacted him and asked for an urgent meeting after discovering a camera hidden in pot pourri in the office toilets.

She handed over the device which Mr Simpson viewed for only a minute, before he decided it was a police matter.

Arrested and interviewed, McConaghie remained tight lipped throughout, answering police questions with a steadfast “no comment,” a stance he has maintained throughout the police investigation, his original trial, his appeal and even outside the court when questioned by members of the media after his original conviction.

A final opportunity was afforded for McConaghie to give evidence on Wednesday, but again he declined.

Having deliberated for just 15 minutes, Judge Lynch told the court “common sense should not be left at the door of the court. I have no doubt this was sexual”.

“The placement of the camera in a toilet is not disputed. It is not in dispute the defendant recorded persons using the toilet.

“He set up the camera and positioned it to ensure it captured the toilet being used by persons. It was an elaborate and risky endeavour. The defendant had powerful motivation which led him to take these risks.”

He continued: “The defence have submitted this was not for sexual gratification but could have been for the purposes of humiliation. I must ask why, as there was no previous animosity toward any members of staff.”

Having been sentenced to four months custody at the magistrates’ court, Judge Lynch reduced this to three months on the grounds of a previously clear record, and ordered McConaghie to sign the police sex offenders register for seven years.