GCHQ intelligence worker used covert cameras to spy on women and girls
A GCHQ intelligence worker used covert cameras to spy on women and girls in their own homes, a court has heard.
Mark Nicholls, 39, who was awarded the Afghanistan Medal for his services, also downloaded indecent images of children, as part of a sordid secret double life.
Nicholls was caught after he took his computer in for repair and engineers discovered indecent images of girls.
After he was arrested, police also found covert footage of three local women and an eight year old girl stored on his machine.
The film had been recorded through windows and from hidden locations and revealed the woman undressing and breast feeding.
There was also a film of a naked eight-year-old girl using a paddling pool in her garden.
Nicholls from Stonehouse in Gloucestershire pleaded guilty to five charges of recording people doing private acts between January 2011 and December 2017.
He also admitted three charges of possessing indecent images of children, one of downloading indecent images and three offences of taking indecent pictures of a girl.
After hearing the facts of the case, Judge Ian Lawrie QC adjourned the case overnight and remanded Nicholls in custody for him to “reflect on his past and his future”.
After the hearing Nicholls describe his night in prison as “terrible”, he allowed him to walk free from court with a three year community order and an order to pay £5,000 each to the four voyeurism victims.
Outlining the background to the case Giles Nelson, prosecuting, said Nicholls had taken his personal computer to a shop to be repaired in August 2018 and when the engineer discovered indecent images of children aged between 11 and 15 he called the police.
“Officers attended Nicholls’ home address and seized the rest of his computer equipment and was analysed by specialists,” Mr Nelson explained.
The court heard that his computers contained three category A videos – the most serious – 11 category B and 67 category C. There were also 1,201 still images of category C.
In addition there were 31 still photographs and numerous covert recordings of a local woman undressing.
Mr Nelson said “[The victim] was devastated to find out what had been going on without her knowledge. The situation has turned her life upside down.
“Nicholls had also focused his lens on the home of another woman who lived nearby, and captured her entering the room and undressing.
“Another neighbour was photographed breast feeding her baby in her back garden which is surrounded by a six foot fence – which should have provided her with a degree of privacy. She stated that this incident has left her feeling anxious.”
In addition there was a video of an eight-year-old local girl who was playing in a paddling pool in her garden without any clothes on.
Nicholls admitted that he had taken the videos for his own sexual gratification, but claimed he had turned to pornography and illegal videos following the collapse of his marriage.
Nicholas Jones, defending, said: “Nicholls’ offending has brought to an end of a 20-year career working for the government at Cheltenham. He is one of the few civilians to be awarded the Afghanistan Service Medal.
“He has lost his job, his marriage has ended and he understands that he will never again be able to work with computers. He knows he will never have the same level of responsibility again and he has started retraining for work within the forestry industry.
“Nicholls has taken steps to address his past and I submit that there is a good prospect of rehabilitation for him if the court does not pass an immediate prison sentence.”
After remanding Nicholls in custody overnight, he said: “I wanted to give you a taste of what your future could be as you’ve never experienced custody before and I wasn’t convinced that you had learnt your lesson.”
He went on “Your actions cross the custody threshold by some margin. Your offending has caused a lot of distress to your victims.
“You have an unhealthy obsession for young girls. You also didn’t seem to appreciate that you were invading people’s private spaces and the hurt that this has caused.
“I accept that you have taken some steps on your own accord in realising you have a problem.”
The judge subjected Nicholls to a three-year community order with 40 programme requirement sessions. He told Nicholls he will monitor and review his progress monthly.
The judge also imposed a 10-year restraining order barring Nicholls from contacting his victims as well as a sexual harm prevention order limiting his use of the internet for 10 years. Nicholls was placed on the sex offenders register for five years.