An optician hid cameras around his practice to secretly film up the skirts of female patients, a court heard yesterday.
Bachelor Martin Clough, 55, fixed one camera under his desk to video under the women’s skirts as they read eye charts.
Another was hidden inside an air freshener in the ladies’ toilet and changing room, Bolton Crown Court was told.
Clough, who has never had a long-term girlfriend, was eventually caught when one woman became suspicious about the air freshener and discovered the camera.
After taking the device home, she played the video, and was shocked to see footage of the optician installing the device.
When he was arrested, the peeping Tom told an officer: ‘I’m officially finished. I’ve got a problem – I tried to ignore it. I need help.
‘This is the end of my career. I have no idea what is in the future for me.’ Police who raided his home in Sharples, near Bolton, discovered more than 24,000 voyeuristic images and 27 videos on his computer.
They showed women in their underwear and some naked from the waist down.
Yesterday Clough was jailed for two years and four months after admitting six charges of voyeurism between December 2013 and November 2014.
Judge Timothy Clayson told him he had breached his patients’ trust. adding: ‘The women getting changed and using the toilets were in various states of undress and nakedness. The victims all had a huge amount of trust in you.
‘The women who have been identified have been left feeling nervous, violated and psychologically disturbed.’
The court heard that Clough took over the optometrist practice Clough Opticians and Visual Ease, in Bolton, with his two brothers after the retirement of his father in the 1990s.
The business has been run by the family for more than 60 years.
Brian Berlyne, prosecuting, said the scandal erupted in November 2014 when a woman using the toilet spotted something black on the air freshener.
‘She opened the unit and found a black camera and USB adapter in the unit,’ the barrister said. ‘It was attached to the box by Blu-Tack. She removed the camera and took it home. She plugged it in and [saw] an image of Martin Clough installing the camera in the toilet. She contacted the police.’
Clough initially claimed he had installed the devices because he suspected that members of staff were stealing from the business. He later admitted wrongdoing.
The judge heard that, of those women identified in the videos, one was now nervous about using public toilets or changing rooms. Another described being angry and feeling ‘like a fool.’
A third victim had since been prescribed anti-depressants and was left feeling suspicious of new people, especially men.
Colin Buckle, defending, told the court that Clough had never had a long-term relationship and was ‘sexually immature’.
He said the optician knew he was going to be ‘publicly humiliated’ and was ‘terrified’ of going to jail.
‘I asked him about his previous physical relationships,’ Mr Buckle added. ‘He tells me they didn’t develop in the normal way. With physical sex he is inexperienced.’