Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sheriff blames victims after lawyer found guilty of filming female staff in toilet

A sheriff seems to think it must be the victims fault too apparently, or is that only when the case involves a solicitor who hid a camera in a ladies toilet …

The Scotsman reports :

Toilet pervert victims 'made to share blame'

Published Date: 10 September 2008
By Tim Bugler

A SOLICITOR who hid a camera in a ladies' toilet and filmed female staff was given three years' probation yesterday after a sheriff said his actions were so clumsy any woman should have spotted them.

Peter Fitzpatrick put the device in a pile of cardboard boxes in the lavatory at the Stirling law firm Muirhead Buchanan.

He was caught when a 24-year-old secretary noticed that a circular hole had been carved in the side of one of the boxes, which was propped up with poly-styrene and pointed at the toilet seat. Inside was a video camera and recording cassette.

Other members of staff had also used the toilet while the camera was in place.

Sheriff Margaret Gimblett put Fitzpatrick, who was grinning in court, on the sex offenders' register and ordered him to attend group work sessions.

The sheriff's ruling was criticised last night by Liz Smith, the Conservative MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife.

She said: "This man has committed a truly reprehensible offence and the public will be astonished by the suggestion that his victims were somehow at fault for not being more aware of the circumstances around them.

"How is that an excuse for his actions? It could be interpreted as a damning indictment of women when they are blamed for not being more vigilant in an environment where they should be secure. I suspect we haven't heard the last of this case."

In court, Ms Gimblett told 49-year-old Fitzpatrick:

"You were a partner in a firm of solicitors, and in such a firm the employees are entitled to feel totally safe when they go to the toilet.

"It was premeditated – not just done on the spur of the moment like flashing – but it was very clumsy and I think any lady with her wits about her would have noticed that one of these boxes had been tampered with.

"It was so clumsy, perhaps it was a cry for help. I also take into account the effect on your family – devastating. You brought shame on them."

Ms Gimblett said that Fitzpatrick had been ill with depression at the time of the offence, and had been assessed as representing a low risk of reoffending. She revealed she had received a testimonial from another "very senior" solicitor and family friend of Fitzpatrick, who said he was still prepared to allow his daughters to sleep over at Fitzpatrick's house.

Ms Gimblett said: "If such a person of high standing is prepared to allow his daughters to stay with you, it is an acknowledgement that this is truly not something that's likely to be repeated. You're so lucky to have the support of such a friend and your close family.

"The effect on you personally and professionally is a huge punishment. The suggestion (in the social inquiry report] of an alternative to prison is sensible."

Fitzpatrick, a father of two from Rutherglen, who has been a solicitor for 27 years, left Muirhead Buchanan as soon as his crime was discovered.

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