Page last updated at 13:23 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Legal ban for peeping solicitor

Ritchie MacRitchie
Richie MacRitchie used his mobile phone to record the woman

A solicitor who filmed a woman changing in a west Belfast leisure centre has been banned from practising law.

Richie MacRitchie, 33, of Ardmullan, Omeath, County Louth, was suspended indefinitely following a disciplinary hearing in Belfast.

In February, MacRitchie was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and placed on the Sex Offenders' Register for seven years.

He had admitted filming the woman in a changing booth with his mobile phone.

The solicitor was convicted in January after originally being cleared of voyeurism.

At first, a direction of no case to answer was given because his victim was wearing a bikini. Because of this it was decided she was not engaged in a private act according to the Sexual Offences Act.

Later, however, the Court of Appeal ordered the prosecution to proceed on a fresh charge of attempted voyeurism.

'Distress'

Passing sentence, District Judge Fiona Bagnall acknowledged the distress and damage inflicted on the woman filmed.

"It's clear this has had a significant effect upon her life," Mrs Bagnall said.

"I do consider this to be a serious offence which does not fall within the low level range."

The victim's father said his daughter - who was in her late teens when the offence happened in October 2006 - was still suffering from depression, stress and anxiety because of it.

Following the conviction, the Law Society of Northern Ireland referred MacRitchie's case to the independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

Although a panel of two lawyers and a lay person decided against striking him off, they did order his indefinite suspension after hearing representations late on Friday.

Appeal

MacRitchie, who is planning to appeal the sentence handed down at Belfast Magistrates Court last Monday, can also challenge the outcome of the tribunal.

A psychiatrist who examined him following his arrest claimed he was suffering from chronic stress and wanted to get caught.

It also emerged during the court case that MacRitchie, who worked as a non-profit making lawyer based at Conway Mill, Belfast, had been up to 100,000 in debt.

Following the disciplinary proceedings, Law Society Chief Executive Alan Hunter said they expected "the highest standards and professional conduct" of all members.

"Solicitors who are convicted of a serious criminal offence through the courts can expect to be referred by the Society to the independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, which is empowered to take appropriate action," he said.

"Fortunately such instances are rare."

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SEE ALSO
Lawyer guilty over cubicle film
26 Jan 09 |  Northern Ireland
Lawyer faces fresh voyeur charge
20 Jun 08 |  Northern Ireland
Solicitor's voyeur case dropped
09 Oct 07 |  Northern Ireland


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