A MAN who admitted to spying on customers and staff with a hidden camera phone avoided a conviction after a judge struck out the case.
The suspect was charged with harassment after it was detected that he used the phone unknown to people using his premises.
The garda investigation arose after the phone was discovered by another man who made a complaint to gardai. This led to a major probe and the suspect being identified and charged.
"When interviewed by gardai, he fully admitted what he was doing. The DPP charged him with harassment but the judge threw it out saying it wasn't the right charge," a source said.
"He is a free man now with no convictions and not subject to the sex offenders' register," the source added.
Senior gardai involved in cases in which criminals spy on their victims with hidden cameras for suspected sexual gratification believe that our laws are not robust enough to deal with such prosecutions.
Unlike other jurisdictions, Ireland does not have a specific law against voyeurism and senior sources say that this is hampering investigations into serious crimes in which victims' privacy is being completley violated.
Instead, offenders who are prosecuted for using hidden cameras can only be charged with harassment in Irish courts, which gardai say has "too narrow" a legal definition.
This means that people being investigated for such offences have a "strong chance" of getting off despite the strength of evidence against them.
Gardai point out that the main problem with charging such offenders with harassment is that the behaviour of the culprit needs to be proven to be "persistent" for a person to be guilty of the offence.
In the recent case that did not go to trial, the prosecution could not prove that the defendant's behaviour was "persistent" because it was a number of different people whom he targeted on a random basis.
One of the rare cases of this nature that resulted in a successful prosecution occurred at Dublin Circuit Court in December, 2012, when a man was given a four-year suspended sentence after he admitted installing a hidden camera in the shower of a women's locker room.