Alleged voyeur repeatedly said ‘no comment’ during interviews

Former DUP aide David McConaghie arrives at Craigavon Court on Monday  charged with voyeurism. 'Photo: Colm lenaghan/Pacemaker
Former DUP aide David McConaghie arrives at Craigavon Court on Monday charged with voyeurism. 'Photo: Colm lenaghan/Pacemaker

There is no evidence that a former DUP adviser who is alleged to have placed a spy camera in the toilet of a party office did so for his sexual gratification, his lawyer has claimed.

The trial of David McConaghie, the former adviser to Upper Bann MP David Simpson, was played video footage of him allegedly placing the tiny camera in a pot of potpourri he had purchased for the sole office toilet.

The footage showed the ordained Free Presbyterian minister seemingly positioning the device for over a minute — just about an hour before a video was captured of a female co-worker using the toilet.

But although the defence accepted there was a “prima facie case” that he placed the camera, Mr McConaghie’s lawyer said that the prosecution had failed to provide evidence that he had placed it there for his sexual gratification.

He argued that the prosecution had to establish that fact and made an application that in the absence of such evidence the case against his client should be halted.

No alternative explanation for why the camera would have been placed in the toilet was yesterday provided in court by Mr McConaghie’s barrister.

The trial was told that during police interviews, Mr McConaghie simply responded “no comment” to detectives’ questions and he has not provided a defence statement setting out his response to the allegations.

It is not yet clear whether Mr McConaghie, who has pleaded not guilty and who sat in the dock during several hours of evidence and legal arguments at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court yesterday, will give any evidence in his own defence.

On the first day of the trial a month ago, David Simpson gave evidence for the prosecution and a female member of his staff described her outrage at being filmed using the toilet.

A second female member of staff gave evidence.

She said that Mr McConaghie had suggested they get potpourri for the toilet, saying “You know, I think we need some potpourri in the toilet. I think that would be a good idea.”

She said that he then bought the item for the lavatory and placed it there himself.

She said that some time later Mr McConaghie changed the pot for the potpourri and that since that point he had used the toilet much more frequently “about every half hour”, something she said that he told colleagues was to do with his head and medical advice to drink more water.

After she and a female colleague decided to replace the potpourri, the device was found. A recording made by the device of the minutes after its discovery was played in court.

She said that Mr McConaghie, who had been on a call, became agitated after realising that the potpourri was being replaced and appeared behind her in the toilet doorway as she was replacing the pot. She told the court that he said: “I need in there – are you going to go?” She said “he seemed very excited – there was a great urgency about him”.

Just minutes later, Mr McConaghie could be heard on video played in court joking with staff about the incident, saying “I had an emergency...”

She said that Mr McConaghie then asked several times whether she and her colleague were OK. And she said that Mr McConaghie had – unusually because he normally left early that night to preach – stayed late at the office that evening.

The following morning, she said it seemed that both the old potpourri – which was in a bin – and the new had been disturbed.

Under cross-examination, it was put to the witness that she had “reverse-engineered” her view of the entire situation after being told by her colleague that Mr McConaghie’s image had appeared when she plugged the camera device into her computer.

And Mr McConaghie’s barrister denied that footage of Mr McConaghie played in court lent itself to a description of him as “agitated”.

The witness was also pressed on whether she had discussed her evidence with the female witness on the first day of the trial since then.

She said that she had discussed the events surrounding the discovery of the device, but not the evidence heard in court.

Several videos played in court showed Mr McConaghie seemingly fixing the pot in which the device was found. One of those, where he appeared to be kneeling down for about a minute adjusting it, came just about an hour before footage judged unsuitable for open court.

The defence said that both of Mr McConaghie’s phones had been seized and “there is no evidence of anything before this court on those phones”. His barrister said that three years after the inquiry began “there’s no evidence this man did this for the purpose of sexual gratification”.

But the prosecution barrister asked “why would a man video record a female co-worker exposing herself, potentially...whether this is a fetish, whether this is some sort of perversion...”

The judge said that “the defendant chose to give no comment interviews [to police]”.

The court was also shown another covert camera found at Mr McConaghie’s home by police. The larger device – which appeared to have a wireless base station and a power pack – was in a box marked SpyCameraCCTV.com

The case was adjourned until next month.