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Thursday 18 October 2018

Grandfather who filmed neighbour's garden sex act guilty of harassment

Thomas Kelly of Weirview Cottages
Thomas Kelly of Weirview Cottages

A Dublin man who used a hidden camera to secretly film his neighbours has been convicted of harassment.

Thomas Kelly (66), of Wearview, Lucan, covered a camera in camouflage netting - and pointed it to the rear of a neighbour's house.

Kelly claimed in court that he was using the camera to catch one of his neighbours "repeatedly" engaging in a sex act in the man's back garden.

Gardai were alerted to the situation after neighbour Paul Lynam discovered two cameras on an elevated piece of land, described as a cliff in court, at the back of his home in early 2016.

In his evidence at Blanchardstown District Court, Mr Lynam said: "I'd a feeling for a long time that I was being watched."

On foot of the discovery, Mr Lynam, along with two other neighbours, journalist John Mooney and Willie Stapleton - whose homes were also captured by the camera - made an official complaint to gardai on February 11, 2016.

Naked

The following day, gardai arrived with a search warrant for Kelly's home along with two other properties he owned in the same street. Upon entering 14 Wearview, now retired Detective Inspector Richard McDonald said in his evidence there were two large flat-screen televisions in the sitting room.

One of the TVs was showing regular programmes, with the other having live feeds to all 16 of Kelly's CCTV cameras.

Garda Damien Reilly discovered one camera on top of a cliff to the rear of the house.

The camera, along with the hard drive of the CCTV system and a number of USB sticks where footage was stored, was seized by gardai. Mr McDonald said video footage showed zooming in on the rear of certain homes. A further search by gardai on July 15, 2016 discovered a replacement camera where the initial one was seized.

On this occasion more USB sticks were seized by investigating gardai. On reviewing what had been seized initially, gardai called Mr Lynam in on May 21, 2016 to review the footage.

One clip appeared to show Mr Lynam to the rear of his own home masturbating. When asked by gardai if that was the case, Mr Lynam said it was.

In his defence, Kelly claimed in court that while he was on top of the cliff working, he had witnessed Mr Lynam masturbating in his back garden.

He said he had made a complaint to the child and family agency Tusla and used the camera to catch Mr Lynam in the act.

Kelly said Mr Lynam was "habitually" naked and was "masturbating repeatedly".

"My purpose in using those cameras was to capture him doing what we all knew he was doing so I could advance my case," Kelly said.

He said his grandchildren would be up on top of the cliff, and he didn't want them to witness it. He also claimed he had written to the Justice Minister over the issue but didn't report it to gardai because he thought it was a "futile exercise".

Kelly also claimed that the 16 cameras were primarily used for security and to monitor the boundaries of his land - the subject of an ongoing civil dispute.

In their evidence, the victims said they had been "stalked".

Mr Mooney said: "I have a teenage daughter and a son with a camera pointed at their bedrooms. It terrifies me to think that's going on."

He added that he could not allow his daughter to open the blinds at the back of the house for two years, for fear they were being watched. He said he was alerted to the cameras after Mr Lynam showed images of them to him. Mr Stapleton said he was worried about his stepdaughter being filmed.

"I was shocked, because my stepdaughter's bedroom is at the back and she would always be coming in from the shower," he said.

Paranoia

In her closing statement, defence barrister Kitty Perle argued that, while the Kelly family appeared to be obsessed with their land and its boundaries, this was not a criminal offence.

However, Judge David McHugh found the defendant guilty on four counts of harassment. He said the harassment could also be deemed as psychological and that it was intentional.

The judge added that Kelly's obsession with land and boundaries "borders on paranoia".

Kelly was remanded on bail until September 27, when victim impact statements will be read out.

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