A “seedy” voyeur who set up his mobile phone to video customers and staff using the toilets of the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet where he worked has been spared jail.
Judge Brian Sherrard said it was a “case that could justify custody”.
But he told 25-year-old Richard Cooper that the public could best be protected by him serving two years probation “in order to address your deficiencies ... and to deal with your needs”.
The Antrim Crown Court judge also told Cooper, from John Street in Ballymoney, he would be “under the cosh” of probation whose orders he must follow or face the prospect of an immediate custodial sentence.
Judge Sherrard, who said “all right-minded people would be horrified” by Cooper’s “gross intrusions ... and significant breach of trust” was told that “in a dry run”, he had secretly videoed his wife using the toilet in their own home.
Prosecution barrister Tessa Kitson said that Cooper was always “protective of his phone”, but last June had left it charging, and his wife, “quite suspicious” of this, took the opportunity to look at it and was “shocked” to find the recordings, including one of herself.
She immediately took the phone to police, and it appeared, added Ms Kitson, that Cooper had put his phone, either inside or on top of a bin in the toilets of the Coleraine KFC where he worked, so he could “then view people coming in to use the bathroom”.
Ms Kitson said the images captured included a youngster aged five or six, a teenage schoolgirl, a mother changing a baby’s nappy, and a member of KFC staff.
Defence lawyer Aaron Thompson said that since the offences came to light, Cooper had lost not only his job, but also his marriage and any contact with his young child.
“His life, really by his own hand, has been cast upside down,” said the barrister.
Mr Thompson said while Cooper carried out his voyeuristic activities in a “surreptitious and seedy way”, he “accepts he has done wrong, but now has begun to move on with his life in the best way he can”.
Cooper, who pleaded guilty to four charges of voyeurism for his own sexual gratification between December 2016 and January 2017, is subject to a Sex Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) for the next five years.