Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 12:53 UK

Lawyer faces fresh voyeur charge

Ritchie MacRitchie
Mr MacRitchie is to face a fresh charge

A solicitor cleared of voyeurism after filming a teenage girl getting changed is to face a fresh charge of trying to commit the offence, judges have ruled.

Richie MacRitchie, 32, was acquitted despite admitting he used his mobile phone to record clips of her in a cubicle at a Belfast leisure centre.

Resident Magistrate Fiona Bagnall had ruled there was no case to answer.

However, she had been satisfied he had recorded the act for sexual gratification.

After police challenged the decision, the Court of Appeal ordered the case to proceed on a charge of attempted voyeurism.

At Friday's hearing, Lord Chief Justice Sir Brian Kerr said: "It appears to us that once the magistrate had concluded that there was prima facie evidence that the defendant had intentionally recorded the injured party and that he did so for the purpose of his own sexual gratification, a finding that there was sufficient evidence to allow the case to proceed as an attempt to commit the offence was inescapable.

"If the defendant made the recording for his own sexual gratification, one may reasonably ask what his intention could possibly be other than to film the complainant in a state of undress."

Mr MacRitchie, from Omeath, County Louth, was accused of using his phone to film the 17-year-old in a unisex changing room at the Falls Leisure Centre in October 2006.

Mrs Bagnall's direction in October 2007 that there was no case to answer was based on an acceptance that the woman was wearing a bikini when the recordings were made.

Although the magistrate considered there was prima facie evidence Mr MacRitchie took the images for his sexual gratification, she decided the woman was not engaged in a private act according to the Sexual Offences Act.

Sir Brian, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, stressed it was "not unquestionably established" that she had changed out of her swimwear when Mr MacRitchie was attempting to film her.

"We have concluded, therefore, that the magistrate cannot be criticised for having granted a direction of no case to answer on the principal charge of voyeurism," he said.

"We do not consider that the meaning of underwear can be extended to cover swimwear worn on any occasion. We consider that if it is worn as underwear and for that purpose, it will qualify as underwear within the terms of the Act. Otherwise it does not."

However, the judges noted how Mr MacRitchie told police he took the recordings in the expectation someone would be in the cubicle and there was a chance they could be changing.

Solicitor's voyeur case dropped
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