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Friday, Oct 07, 2022

Secret filming victim feels let down by courts

Secret filming victim feels let down by courts

A woman who was secretly filmed getting undressed and using the shower by a man who preyed on nearly 170 victims says she is still waiting for justice.

John Wood concealed cameras to film women in a number of locations, including in the swimming pool changing rooms at a Butlins holiday resort.

The 44-year-old went on to hack into home security software to capture couples having sex in their own homes. Over six years he saved more than 1,400 videos which he used for his own sexual gratification.

Wood was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence for his crimes.

Here one woman, who wished to remain anonymous, opens up about how the experience has affected her.

When I found out what had happened to me, I felt sick to my stomach. I remember I couldn't stop shaking.

I felt completely violated, embarrassed and angry.

He had set up cameras to record me in my most vulnerable moments - the things you do by yourself. Undressing. Using the shower, the toilet.

He had taken something from me that I had not consented to. He had invaded my space.

His crimes were intentional, premeditated and committed over many years, with many more victims.

I didn't sleep the night after he was sentenced. I wanted to hear it directly from the police. They called me the day after. He got a two year sentence, suspended for two years.

I cried on the phone, so upset and disgusted.

I felt like I had been physically hit. I was so angry, so confused.

In my heart of hearts I fully expected him to receive a custodial sentence. But he didn't. He walked away.

I asked if I could appeal. After waiting so long for this case to get to court, after all my frustration, irritation, embarrassment, not knowing if these images were shared. Surely there was a way to appeal?

The police later said I wasn't able to appeal because the sentencing for these types of crimes are only two years maximum.

Within a couple of weeks of the case's conclusion, I had a mental breakdown. I couldn't contain my anger any more.

The next day I sought medical help. I was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs and will probably remain on them for the foreseeable future.

Woods's offending first came to light during a regional organised crime unit investigation

Wood was sentenced in October 2020 after admitting six charges of voyeurism and two counts under the Computer Misuse Act.

The extent of his offending came to the attention of a regional organised crime unit during a joint investigation with the FBI.

They were looking into the software LuminosityLink which allowed users to activate cameras and microphones to secretly observe people in their own homes.

Wood was one of 167 people in the UK who bought the software and one of 8,500 across the world.

Although police found no evidence he ever used it, he was now on their radar, and when officers analysed his computers they found hundreds of secret videos taken between 2011 and 2018.

'Avid interest'

Det Sgt Jonathan Atkin, lead officer on the case, said: "Prior to that point we didn't know what other offending he had committed.

"The only reason we identified what other offending he committed was because we seized every digital device from his property."

The videos recovered showed Wood had "a massive, avid interest in voyeurism", Det Sgt Atkin said.

He had filmed more than 300 videos, setting up cameras to film women from the windows of his home.

Then in 2012, while on holiday at Butlins in Bognor Regis, he took a camera in a concealed bag into the swimming pool changing rooms, where he filmed women undressing in adjacent cubicles.

Wood filmed 77 videos over five days at Butlins. They showed more than 160 victims, none could be identified.

Wood used software to monitor several different illicitly-accessed cameras at once

But this was just the start of his offending.

He went on to hack into people's private webcams and other camera-enabled devices to secretly watch them in their own homes.

Wood used software to monitor several different illicitly-accessed cameras at once. A total of 1,400 of these videos were saved on his devices.

The majority of the videos showed people having sex, but most [of the victims] have never been identified.

"There's no doubt, from the evidence from his devices, that he hasn't just fallen across this, it is a calculated, premeditated position, where he has an interest in adult females and obtaining whatever sexual gratification he can get from it," Det Sgt Atkin said.

"It was an ever growing interest that has then become palpable to the fact where he has then decided, 'well I have done this, what is the next thing I can now gain from it'.

"He's gone from putting cameras in a bag on the beach, with people sunbathing... to then going extreme into filming in leisure facilities and finally hacking into people's computers."

In court, Wood was described by his lawyer as someone who had been diagnosed with various mental disorders including autism, hoarding disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

It was argued he was of previous good character and had stayed out of trouble in the three years since he was arrested.

Under the terms of his suspended sentence, Wood was ordered to complete a sex offender rehabilitation programme, 30 rehabilitation activity days and 100 hours or unpaid work.

He must also abide by a 10 year sexual harm prevention order and sign onto the sex offenders' register.

I was so very disappointed. I didn't know where to turn. I felt lost, that my options were over, and that I just had to live with the decision.

I was livid. Furious that I couldn't turn to anyone at this point and that what is done is done.

I had no say in court, apart from a statement I had given. No control over what the judge had determined to be justified sentencing.

He changed his real name by deed poll before he was officially charged so he could protect his privacy.

He was able to use his new name and so protect his identity throughout the court case, from being charged to sentencing, giving him the luxury to remain "unknown".

His victims were never allowed their privacy.

I had no choice in having my dignity protected, he took that from me without my consent, for his own sexual gratification.

The punishment didn't fit the crime. I still feel very much like it was unduly lenient.

How many more people would he have had to have hacked? How many more years would he have had to have offended to spend time in jail?

If he did serve time inside prison I think I would've had closure. Instead I am left with something that will always haunt me.

Voyeurism is not included within the scope of the Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme

Unduly lenient

The Unduly Lenient Sentence scheme, under which people can appeal a sentence, has been expanded six times and includes many serious sexual offences.

Most recently, sexual offences involving an abuse of trust, indecent images offences and domestic abuse offences were added, however voyeurism is not currently included within its scope.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General's office said: "For over 30 years, the Unduly Lenient Sentences scheme has helped victims of crime and their loved ones by correcting unduly lenient sentencing.

"The scheme includes many more offences now than it did when it was first launched, allowing the Law Officers to look at more sentences which don't appear to fit the crime."

It is for the Secretary of State for Justice to add further offences to the scheme.

The Ministry of Justice declined to comment on whether voyeurism was a crime it would consider adding.

The police confirmed Wood had a massive interest in pornography and that the evidence they had was over and above what they needed. So how was this sex offender allowed any leniency?

I very much feel the system did let myself and other victims down.

Without a shadow of a doubt this type of crime should be able to be appealed. I just want this all to end with a feeling that justice was served.

Yes, he had to participate in a program and community service, also he'll be on the Sex Offenders Register, good, but the gravity of his crimes I feel deserved more than just a suspended sentence.

It is outrageous that victims of these crimes just have to live with the consequences of the criminals' actions without being heard or seen by the law.

I am not just a name, or number, I am a person who has been deeply affected by his malicious, premeditated, sexually driven actions and they will always affect me.


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