Secret camera in MP’s office toilet had over 200,000 images or videos court told

David McConaghie leaving a previous court hearing..
David McConaghie leaving a previous court hearing..

A secret camera hidden in the toilet of a DUP MP’s constituency office contained 216,373 photos or videos, a court was told on Monday as a former DUP adviser went on trial charged with voyeurism.

The images were recovered by a PSNI forensics officer and a detective has viewed more than 100,000 of the files, Craigavon Magistrates Court was told.

David McConaghie of Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, — who was the senior adviser to Upper Bann MP David Simpson — denies that he “installed observe, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, a third person doing a private act, knowing that the third person did not consent to being observed for that purpose”.

The device was discovered by a female member of staff in Mr Simpson’s Portadown office after she became suspicious about a bowl of potpourri which Mr McConaghie had got for the toilet but which she said kept being moved several inches so that it was facing the toilet cubicle — despite her moving it back several times.

The female member of staff was one of four employees who worked in Mr Simpson’s office.

She said that some time prior to the discovery of the device she had become suspicious about Mr McConaghie because he had begun to hang his suit jacket on the towel rail in the toilet with his camera phone lens “pointing out directly at the toilet”. She eventually asked him why he was not hanging the jacket on the coat rail and said the incident was “brushed off” but the coat was no longer placed in the toilet.

Mr McConaghie’s defence objected to that being raised, stressing that there was no offence involved and claimed it was “mud-slinging”. But the judge allowed the evidence to be heard in court, although he stressed that he had not made a decision about whether to allow it to stand as evidence.

The female member of staff said that on September 12, 2012 she went for lunch with a female colleague and told her of her suspicions about the potpourri which she said had been placed in an unusual position some six inches from the corner, pointing directly at the toilet. She said that she repeatedly moved the pot into the corner but it kept being moved out again.

The two staff then tipped the potpourri out of the bowl and found the device.

Some videos from the device are to be shown in open court but some of the more disturbing recordings were viewed privately in chambers by District Judge Mervyn Bates so as to protect the privacy of the victims.

However, the judge said that in the interests of justice being done in public, “there must be a description in public court”.

A prosecutor said that some of the videos relate to “the private act... use of the lavatory by a female”.

The female member of staff was told that some of the videos involved her going to the toilet, something she said left her feeling “devastated”.

She said that she plugged the device into a laptop, and “the only thing I seen (sic) on the laptop at that time appeared to be the device being placed by David McConaghie”.

In cross-examination it was suggested to the woman that anyone who moved the pot could have caused the camera to activate.

The “USB camera device” — which may have been motion activated — was held up in court and appeared to be about two inches in length.

A specialist PSNI officer who examined the device and used a “forensic process” to recover the files told the court: “I’ve never come across a device such as this before.”

Mr McConaghie had been a trained Free Presbyterian minister and a press officer for the Caleb Foundation, although he parted ways with that group after the allegations came to light.

Mr Simpson told the court that he had been given the device by the female member of staff and had put it in a locked drawer.

He said that he had met the male office staff collectively and told them that he was going to the police.

After the discovery of the device on the Wednesday, Mr McConaghie met Mr Simpson on Saturday and resigned.

The MP spoke to a PSNI officer on the Monday and then gave the device to police about a fortnight after it had been discovered.

Mr McConaghie’s lawyer put it to Mr Simpson that his client had resigned because he was not prepared to work in an environment where there were “fingers pointed in his direction”, even though he had worked there for over 11 years and maintains that he did nothing wrong.

The case was adjourned until next month when the prosecution will continue its case before the defence case is heard.