Pervert admits taking snaps up ‘several’ women’s skirts after being caught red handed in Hartlepool centre

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A SNEAKY pervert took a photograph up a woman’s skirt with his mobile phone on a shopping centre escalator.

David Paul Stonehouse targeted the woman on the moving staircase in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, Hartlepool.

But the filthy 51-year-old – who admitted taking snaps up “several” other women’s dresses – was caught in the act and hauled before Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court for punishment.

He rocked back and forth during the hearing which saw chairman of the magistrates’ bench Barbara Sutherland slap him with a five-year police notification requirement to “protect the public from serious sexual harm”.

Stonehouse, of Hutton Avenue, Hartlepool, was also placed on a five-year sexual offences prevention order, and a three-year community order with a sex offender treatment programme.

He was banned from having any device capable of taking photographs or videos.

Prosecuting, Blair Martin said: “The victim was on the escalator in the shopping centre when she felt someone bump into her from behind and then someone touch the back of her leg. A male caught her eye and she turned and he said hello to her.

“She carried on with her business until she was spoken to by a couple who told her that the male that had touched her leg had in fact taken her photograph under her skirt. Security staff were notified.

“A still CCTV image was produced from the shopping centre and the defendant was detained by staff and police community support officers.

“The defendant’s mobile phone was seized from him.

“He was interviewed and said he’d been on the escalator and used his mobile phone to photograph up inside the skirt of the female. He said she’d stepped back - he hadn’t intended to touch her.

“He said the phone had been used on several occasions on other women in similar scenarios over the past few weeks, and he expressed relief that he had been caught.”

Mr Martin added: “At the time the victim said she was upset and devastated and rang her husband and burst into tears. She said she didn’t want him to take advantage of others so she told police.”

A victim impact statement was read out to the court in which the victim said she felt her personal space had been invaded and was worried that the picture might be put up on the internet.

She was fearful of going into town alone following the incident, and felt unsafe in her home.

“It had a profound effect on the victim and caused her considerable distress,” said Mr Martin.

Stonehouse pleaded guilty to voyeurism, namely that he used a mobile phone for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification knowing that the other person did not consent, and also sexual assault on a female in that he intentionally touched a woman over the age of 16 years old and the touching was sexual.

He rocked back and forth in his seat during the hearing.

Mitigating, Dave Smith, said: “My client understands the upset the act has caused and that it has larger implications.

“My client has always experienced emotional and mental health difficulties and his partner of some years has always helped him with this.

“However, at the time of the incident her support was not forthcoming as she’d lost a relative and had a number of crises. He found himself slipping back over in relation to his progress.

“But now he has the full support of his family and no longer in a position where he is unable to control his actions.”

He added: “Admissions were made to the other similar conduct, but it never led to any further charges being brought.

“He loses his good name today and he has learned his lesson. It will affect his future behaviour in a positive way.

“Mr Stonehouse has been effectively house bound since this allegation, not only with physical pain from sciatica, but because of embarrassment. He feels mortified in relation to his behaviour.”

Stonehouse, who claims sickness benefit, was ordered to pay £150 compensation to the victim, £85 costs, £100 fine and a £60 victim surcharge.