A MAN who placed a hidden camera in a shared bathroom in rental accommodation has received a suspended prison term for the offence.
John Fitzgerald (31) of 131 Grace Park Heights, Drumcondra, Dublin, and formerly Cappagh White, Tipperary, appeared before Westport District Court, where he pleaded to one charge of harassment.
The court heard that Mr Fitzpatrick was living in rented accommodation at 1 Altamont Court, Altamont Street, Westport with three other people, and shared a bathroom with a female occupant. On March 11, 2015, the female came to Westport Garda Station reporting that she found an object in the window of the bathroom of the rental accommodation.
The female Googled what the device could be, and found out that it was a recording device.
She connected the object to a computer and discovered two videos of the shower area but she was not in either video. She declined to make a statement to gardaí on March 11, but Garda O’Caheny said she was ‘shaken’ and felt her privacy had been invaded.
Mr Fitzpatrick, who, it was heard, is almost qualified as an architect, admitted to gardaí that the device was his and handed it over. He moved out of the rented accommodation straight away following the discovery of the device.
On June 14, 2015, Mr Fitzpatrick was arrested and admitted that he placed the device in the shared bathroom to video the woman.
Two days later his house in Tipperary was searched. Laptops, hardware, USB sticks and phones were taken and examined, and no videos or images were found.
Supt Joe McKenna told the court that the victim was ‘deeply troubled by what happened’ and although no images were found of her, ‘doubts and concerns would have played heavily on her mind’.
The court was told that Mr Fitzpatrick had no previous convictions and had sent a letter of apology to the victim days after the discovery.
Defending solicitor Brian Hughes told the court that his client had taken steps to address his issues. A psychological report was handed into court which outlined Mr Fitzpatrick’s ‘sorrow, regret and empathy’ and noted that his sincerity was at ‘the upper level’.
Mr Hughes said the matter had a ‘severe impact’ on the victim, but added that she may get some assurance from the view that his client will be no danger to anyone in this way again, as evidenced through psychological reports.
Judge Bernadette Owens described the behavior as ‘a serious offence’ and one that the victim had ‘no control over’.
“It was a total invasion of privacy in a space where we all expect privacy,” said the judge.
Judge Owens added that the victim and perpetrator had a friendship and Mr Fitzpatrick ‘broke that trust’.
Judge Owens placed the gravity of the offence at ‘mid range’ of seven months of a possible 12 month prison sentence for the harassment charge. However, she considered his early admission, the steps he had taken to address his issues and the support of his family as mitigating factors.
Judge Owens said she did not believe community service would be appropriate, and she sentenced Fitzgerald to five months in prison, which was suspended in its entirety for a period of two years, and she fined him €250.
She added that she hoped that ‘all parties can move on from this’.