Voyeur Reverend Richard Lee walks free from court over indecent pictures of girls and woman

 

A Church of England vicar has walked free from court after admitting using secret cameras to spy on and film intimate pictures of three girls and a woman.

Reverend Richard Lee, 49, was handed an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, at Bristol Crown Court today after admitting eight counts of voyeurism and 18 counts of making indecent images.

The offending took place over a ten-year period, in Weston-super-Mare where he was a priest in the diocese of Bath and Wells, and also in Gillingham, Kent.

Judge Neil Ford, QC, said: “I have agonised about my public duty in this case. While sentences of imprisonment must be imposed, they can be suspended.”

Outlining the case, prosecutor Richard Posner said: “For ten years, Richard Lee has been watching young girls. This was at a time when they believed, thought and trusted they had privacy.

“This was all for his sexual gratification. He breached the trust... and undermined the faith his community had in him.”

The court heard Lee, who was suspended from his post when he was arrested in July last year, used secret cameras to spy on his victims, but was found out when the pictures were spotted on his laptop.

Following police searches of the Locking vicarage in Somerset and churches, officers seized a number of computer equipment and found 400 category one images - the least serious - and 84 movies of the same category. High-tech examination of computers seized also revealed 51 category two images, three category three and four images and one category four movie.

He also searched for images of child abuse on the internet, the court heard, although there was no evidence to suggest any of the material was shared with anyone else, while most of it was likely deleted, the judge said.

He moved from Kent to work at two churches in Somerset. Lee previously officiated at All Saints' Church in Hempstead before leading the congregations at St Augustine's Church in Locking and St Mary's Church in Hutton.

Lee, who has since moved to Bodmin in Cornwall to live with his parents, made a full confession to police upon his arrest.

Defending, Robin Shellard said his client “behaved with a degree of wickedness”.

He said: “Richard Lee appears in front of this court today a totally broken man.

“He has, through his own folly but more importantly his own criminality, lost everything he has worked for, for the whole of his life.

“He's lost everything that he held most dear. He is overwhelmed with guilt and remorse.

“His parishioners have, in many respects, quite rightly, rejected him.”

In a letter from one member of the public, the author described Lee as “the best vicar we've ever had, bringing the church to the people in a way no other cleric had previously”.

The judge added: “You've lost your calling as a clergyman.”

Lee was banned from working with children indefinitely and must complete a sexual offenders' programme.

The Diocese of Bath and Wells previously confirmed that in accordance with the Clergy Discipline Measure, the Bishop of Bath and Wells Rt Revd Peter Price suspended Lee from active ministry as soon as he was arrested.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk