Laptop filming charge dismissed

Court House-general 3A judge has ruled that a 34-year-old man unlawfully installed a programme to take videos on a woman’s laptop computer but he has found that the man did not realise the laptop would operate in her bedroom.

One charge against Roy Thomas, a storeman with a wife and child, was dismissed, but the other charge was found proved by Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders.

Judge Saunders ruled that the police had not proved that Thomas “intentionally or recklessly made an intimate visual recording” using the laptop, and dismissed that charge.

But he said Thomas had caused data or software in a computer system to be modified when he installed a Jenaus camera system when the woman was expecting him to install two other programmes.

“While I am satisfied about the installation of the Jenaus programme, it has not been established to the criminal standard of proof that the defendant did so with the intention of causing intimate visual recordings to be made,” said the judge.

There was evidence that the woman was living in a flatting situation and when the software, and later movies, were installed the computer was in a common lounge or dining area at the flat.

“The defendant was not sufficiently aware of (the woman’s) habits in relation to the use of the computer where I could hold that he was fixed with knowledge that she would use it in her bedroom and scenes of an intimate nature would be captured.”

In fact the programme was activated by motion and the police’s Electronic Crime Laboratory said 256 videos were made automatically and a small number of them showed her in her bedroom, undressing or partially naked.

Thomas had advised the woman to keep the laptop open because opening and shutting it could cause wear or damage on the hinges. When he returned to her flat later to install some movies, he had copied files from her laptop onto her external hard drive.

He said in evidence that he copied them because a large number of files had been made and it was slowing the computer down. He said he had not envisaged that the woman would have been using the laptop when in a state of undress, and that the camera had recorded so much activity.

The judge said: “The action of removing these video clips without further discussion certainly points to a lack of candour on his part about the whole point of installing the software in the first place.”

The judge-alone trial was heard over two days before Judge Saunders reserved his decision. After issuing the decision, Judge Saunders ordered Thomas to do 120 hours of community work and pay costs of $436 to fly a police witness from the Electronic Crime Laboratory from Dunedin to Christchurch for the trial. He said Thomas had been found not guilty of the more serious “voyeuristic” charge.

David Goldwater appeared as defence counsel for Thomas; Glenn Henderson was the police prosecutor.


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