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Experts warn of ‘epidemic’ of bugging devices used by stalkers

More funding and legal powers are needed for police to stop a surge of stalkers using eavesdropping devices to spy on victims, experts have warned.

By James Hockaday for Metro.co.uk

 

 

Firms paid to detect the bugs say they’re finding more and more of the devices which are readily available on online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.

Jack Lazzereschi, Technical Director of bug sweeping company Shapestones, says cases of stalking and victims being blackmailed with intimate footage shot in secret has doubled in the past two years.

He told Metro.co.uk: ‘The police want to do something about it, they try to, but usually they don’t have the legal power or the resources to investigate.

‘For us it’s a problem. We try to protect the client, we want to assure that somebody has been protected.’

 

People are paying as little as £15 for listening devices and spy cameras hidden inside desk lamps, wall sockets, phone charger cables, USB sticks and picture frames.

Users insert a sim card into a hidden slot and call a number to listen in on their unwitting targets.

People using hidden cameras can watch what’s happening using an apps on their phones.

Jack says the devices are so effective, cheap and hard to trace to their users, law enforcement prefer using them over expensive old-school devices.

Although every case is different, in situations where homeowners plant devices in their own properties, Jack says there’s usually a legal ‘grey area’ to avoid prosecution.

 

The devices themselves aren’t illegal and they are usually marketed for legitimate purposes like protection, making it difficult for cops to investigate.

There is no suggestion online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon are breaking the law by selling them.

But in some instances, images of women in their underwear have been used in listings – implying more sinister uses for the devices.

Even in cases when people are more clearly breaking the law, Jack says it’s unlikely perpetrators will be brought to justice as overstretched police will prioritise resources to stop violent crime.

Jack’s says around 60 per cent of his firm’s non-corporate cases cases involve stalking or blackmail.

He says it’s become an ‘epidemic’ over the past couple of years with the gadgets more readily available than ever before.

Victims are often filmed naked or having sex and threatened with the threat of footage being put online and in the worst cases children are also recorded.

Jack says UK law is woefully unprepared to deal with these devices compared to countries in the Asian-Pacific region.

In South Korea authorities have cracked down on a scourge of perverts planting cameras in public toilets.

James Williams, director of bug sweepers QCC Global says snooping devices used to be the preserve of people with deep pockets and technological know-how.

He said: ‘It’s gone from that to really being at a place where anybody can just buy a device from the internet.

 

‘Anything you can possibly think of you can buy with a bug built into it. I would say they’re getting used increasingly across the board.’

Suky Bhaker, Acting CEO of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline, warned using these gadgets could be a prelude to physical violence.

She said: ‘We know that stalking and coercive control are extremely dangerous and can cause huge harm to the victim, both in terms of their psychological wellbeing and the potential for escalation to physical violence or even murder.

‘The use of surveillance devices or spyware apps by stalkers, must be seen in the context of a pattern of obsessive, fixated behaviour which aims at controlling and monitoring the victim.

 

She added: ‘There should be clarity for police forces that the use of surveillance equipment by stalkers to monitor their victim’s location or communications is a sign that serious and dangerous abuse may be present or imminent.’

‘All cases of stalking or coercive control should be taken seriously and investigated when reported to police.’

The charity is calling for all police forces across the country to train staff in this area.

Earlier this month a policeman known only by his surname Mills was barred from the profession for life for repeatedly dismissing pleas for help from 19-year-old Shana Grice who was eventually murdered by her stalker ex-boyfriend Michel Lane.

 

A spokesman for eBay said: ‘The listing of mini cameras on eBay is permitted for legitimate items like baby monitors or doorbell cameras.

‘However, items intended to be used as spying devices are banned from eBay’s UK platform in accordance with the law and our policy.

‘We have filters in place to block prohibited items, and all the items flagged by Metro have now been removed.’

Amazon declined to comment.

Couple find “spy camera” hidden in clock at Airbnb flat

A couple claims to have discovered a secret camera hidden in a digital clock in the Airbnb flat they were renting.

By Zoe Drewett

Dougie Hamilton and his girlfriend say the camera – which was pointed towards their bed in the holiday apartment – was disguised as a clock but looked suspicious. The 34-year-old said he started investigating the clock after a day of exploring in Toronto, Canada.

He had recently watched a YouTube video on secret ‘spy’ cameras hidden in cuddly toys and buttons, Dougie said. But when he picked up the clock he managed to slide its face off quite easily and was horrified to find a tiny lens that may have been recording them.

On September 7, Dougie, from Glasgow, posted about his discovery on Facebook, writing: If you use Airbnb, then you’ll definitely want to read this and possibly stop using them.’

He explained: We booked a one night stay in a lovely apartment in the center of Toronto last night (September 6). We had a crazy busy day around the city and finally were able to get to the Airbnb and relax or so we thought. I was laying on the couch and this digital clock is facing into the living area and open plan bedroom Left with my thoughts, that video pops into my head, “imagine if it was the spy camera in the clock”.

 

After removing the clock’s charger and discovering a lithium battery in the back of the device the front face of the clock cam off and revealed the camera. The couple have since alerted Airbnb and police in Canada, who are both investigating. Speaking to the Daily Record, Dougie said: (Airbnb) told us the property owner has six other properties and hundreds of reviews, so it looks like we’ve been lucky. We were only in the place for 20 minutes when I noticed the clock. It was connected to a wire like a phone charger which wasn’t quite right. I felt a bit weird even thinking it and I kept telling myself not to be daft. But there was just something.

 

Dougie and his girlfriend – who asked not to be named – said they found the encounter ‘creepy’. A spokeswoman for Toronto police said: We received a call last Thursday regarding what appeared to be a video camera in a clock in an apartment. The investigation is continuing. Airbnb has also told Dougie its security team are looking into the claims and offered him a full refund. They said they would be canceling upcoming reservations for the owner’s properties, he added. A spokesperson for Airbnb said: We take privacy issues extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy for this behavior. We have removed the host from the platform while we investigate and are providing the guest with our full support.

 

STALKER HELL Ex-boyfriend spied on lover by hiding secret cameras and listening devices in her home

Wayne Bamford, 47, was told he faces a ‘significant custodial sentence’ because of the risks he faces to women

By Robin Perrie

JEALOUS Wayne Bamford is facing jail after he placed covert listening devices in his ex-partner’s bedroom during a stalking campaign.

Bamford, 47, refused to accept their relationship was over after Joanna Dawson ended it and launched a “highly sophisticated” covert operation to keep tabs on her.

He was able to phone in to the devices which then provided a live feed so he could hear what was going on in her bedroom.

Over a period of 15 days he connected to the devices 1,600 times, a court heard.

But the surveillance op was foiled when mum-of-one Joanne sought advice from a spy shop after suspecting he might have bugged her home.

He was told he faces a “significant custodial sentence” because of the risks he faces to women.

His case was heard on the same day that Corrie Star Kym Marsh backed our Stop a Stalker campaign.

Kym, who has twice been targeted, urged readers to sign our petition backing an MP’s bid to increase police power to combat stalkers.

Bamford and Joanne began a relationship in May 2016 and started an accident management business together six months later.

But their relationship quickly turned sour and ended in January 2017.

Prosecutor Anthony Moore told Bradford crown court that Joanne’s suspicions were raised when Bamford appeared to comment on her movements.

She became even more concerned when she contacted a locksmith to boost security and Bamford texted her saying: “There is no need to change your locks”.

She visited a spy shop for advice and was told her what to look for. She returned home and found a listening device in her bedroom.

Joanne told the court: “He played me a recording in my own house and told me he had paid someone to place a device on the outside of my house which I did not believe.

“I went to a spy shop in Leeds and asked them, ‘if I wanted to bug someone’s house what do you do?’ “He told me what to look for.” She later found a second device hidden behind a TV in her bedroom and Bamford, of Gildersome, near Leeds, was arrested.

Bamford admitted stalking causing serious alarm or distress but a trial of issue was held yesterday after the prosecution and defence could not agree on the basis of his guilty plea.

He claimed to have fitted only one of the listening devices and said she had fitted the other to keep tabs on another ex.

But the judge, Recorder Anthony Hawks, said: “I find the complainant entirely plausible.

“I find the defendant evasive and dishonest. I totally reject his account that the complainant was responsible.

“I’m very concerned about the risk you may present to people. You were prepared to engage in a highly sophisticated way to stalk that woman.

Navy veteran raped schoolgirl and planted hidden camera

Scott Forbes plied a 14-year-old girl with alcohol during sex attacks in Edinburgh.

A former serviceman raped a schoolgirl and sexually assaulted another underage girl 

By STV

Scott Forbes also placed a hidden camera in another victim’s bedroom and recorded footage of her while she was naked and getting dressed.

Jailing him for nine years on Monday, a judge told Forbes, 49, that the corrosive effect of his behavior on victims was “incalculable”.

 Lord Woolman said: “You have altered the course of their lives.”

Forbes, formerly of Firrhill Park, in Edinburgh, was convicted of five offences committed between 2009 and May last year, including rape, sexual assault and possessing and making indecent images of children.

He locked a 14-year-old in a house in Edinburgh and made sexual remarks to the child and molested and raped her and photographed her naked body.

He also plied another 14-year-old with drink, showed her pornography, molested her and took pictures of her naked body while she was intoxicated at an address in Edinburgh on May last year.

Forbes was also found to have set up equipment at a house in Bonnyrigg, in Midlothian, to covertly shoot and record footage of a third victim in April last year.

Lord Woolman also ordered at the High Court in Edinburgh that the Royal Navy veteran should be kept under supervision for an extra four years after his release.

The judge said he had “narrowly” decided against calling for a full risk-assessment report, which can lead to the making of an Order for Lifelong Restriction.

He told Forbes he was prepared to treat him as a first offender and noted that he had medical problems which have prevented him working for the last eight years.

Defence counsel David Nicholson said Forbes continued to deny the serious sexual offending.

Mr Nicholson said Forbes had been on long term sick leave following a variety of health problems.

He told the court that Forbes has a neurological condition and was previously diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

The defence counsel said that arose primarily from Forbes’ service when he was stationed in Iraq and the Arabian gulf.

He added: “He is not somebody with any difficulty with drugs or alcohol.”

Following the sentencing, police praised victims who came forward to give evidence against Forbes.

Detective Sergeant Jonny Wright, of Edinburgh’s Public Protection Unit, said: “Scott Forbes is a devious individual who took advantage of each of the victims’ trust.

“I want to commend their bravery in coming forward, which has led to Forbes’ conviction.

“I would also like to reassure any victims of sexual crime that there is no time limit to reporting offences and we will always investigate.”

Police Scotland added: “Anyone with information about sexual offences can contact Police Scotland on 101, or report this anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

Pervert landlord watched tenants having sex and made 180 videos of naked women after installing hidden cameras

Paul Dunster, 59, from Portsmouth in Hampshire, would also watch his tenants showering and made films of his unsuspecting victims over a 10 year period

By Danya Bazaraa

A pervert landlord watched his tenants having sex and showering after planting hidden cameras in their rooms, a court heard.

Paul Dunster, 59, made a staggering 183 videos of unsuspecting naked women who rented rooms from him over a 10 year period to ‘satisfy his sexual needs’.

A judge told him it was a “sad” and “disgusting” story.

Police raided former security worker Dunster’s home in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and found two memory cards containing the voyeuristic videos.

He initially denied two charges of voyeurism but later admitted making the secret videos after setting up cameras in the bedroom and bathroom of one of the properties he rented out.

Prosecutor David Reid told Portsmouth Crown Court: “The first memory card had 18 videos which showed sexual encounters between men and women in the bedroom.

“Those videos lasted a total of 20 minutes but none of the tenants were aware of the camera.

“The second memory card was taken from the bathroom and showed women having baths and showers – women who were also totally unaware they were filmed.

“There was significant planning to this and it was an abuse of trust as the women were tenants.”

The court heard army veteran Dunster was landlord of seven flats and had total outstanding mortgages of £870,000.

Daniel Reilly, mitigating, told the hearing: “Many residents are extremely grateful he lets them rent rooms the way he does.”

Sentencing Dunster, Judge David Melville QC said: “The residents would have been disgusted to know you had a camera set up in the bedroom to film people having sex.

“I’m sure people would also have been disgusted to know you set up a camera in the bathroom to satisfy your sexual needs.

“It is sad story and one which is disgusting.”

Dunster was ordered to pay a £5,000 fine plus £500 in costs, and was given 100 hours of unpaid work with 20 rehabilitation days.
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‘Sly’ Osteopath filmed sex with patient using hidden camera at Liverpool practice

Michael George Hammond avoided jail today – but not before his behaviour was branded ‘disgraceful’

By Tom Molloy & Liam Thorp

A ‘deceitful and sly’ Osteopath who filmed a sexual act with one of his patients using a hidden camera has avoided jail.

Michael George Hammond recorded the act using a camera hidden inside a pen on a shelf at his Liverpool practice to record the act.

The 61-year-old, of Llangoed in North Wales, pleaded guilty to voyeurism after an ex-partner and former patient of his found the recording while she was waiting to be seen by him at his Aigburth practice, The Daily Post reports.

At Caernarfon Crown Court, Judge Huw Rees described the act as “a deceitful and sly offence on a lady entitled to privacy and respect”.

He added that although the sexual act was consensual, the extent he went to in order to film it, without the victim’s knowledge, was one that required “considerable purpose of mind”.

Judge Rees said: “You sought out this pen, you purchased it, you secreted it in your treatment room and positioned it surreptitiously.

“You trespassed on her dignity and slyly invaded her privacy.”

Karl Scholz, prosecuting, called for a custodial sentence as he believed the offence fell within the category one sentencing guidelines for sexual assault, due to raised harm and raised culpability.

Paulinus Barnes, defending, said Hammond was remorseful and knew his career was probably over.

He said: “He knew from the outset that his behaviour was disgraceful.

“He abused the lady’s privacy and he is genuinely remorseful.

“He’s now had to close his business, his career is over, and he’s lost his good name. That’s quite some punishment in itself.”

He said aggravating factors including the place of the offence being Hammond’s clinic, the images being available to be viewed and the fact that Hammond appeared to use his position as a platform to abuse women.

Mr. Scholz also said the crime “involved planning and involved a breach of trust”.

Mr Barnes asked for any prison sentence to be suspended, reminded the judge of Hammond’s early guilty plea and pointing out that the recording wasn’t uploaded to the internet or distributed further.

Sentencing Hammond to six months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, Judge Rees described the offence as “entirely degrading” for the victim and told Hammond: “This is a substantial fall from grace for you, at the age of 61.”

Judge Rees also ordered Hammond to complete 150 hours of unpaid work, complete a 50-day rehabilitation rehabilitation activity requirement and pay victim surcharges within three months.

He also called for the recording to be destroyed.

Judge Rees added: “Any failures of these conditions, exceptional circumstances aside, you will be jailed”.