Voyeuristic vicar facing jail term
A Church of England vicar is facing jail after admitting spying on and filming intimate pictures of three children and a woman.
Reverend Richard Lee, 49, moved from Gillingham, Kent, five years ago to work at two Somerset churches near Weston-super-Mare.
Yesterday he appeared at North Somerset Magistrates' Court, where he pleaded guilty to eight counts of voyeurism and 18 counts of making indecent images. The court heard Lee, who was suspended from his post when he was arrested in July last year, installed secret cameras to spy on his victims, but was found out when the pictures were spotted on his laptop.
Lee previously officiated at All Saints' Church in Hempstead before moving to Somerset to lead the congregations at St Augustine's Church in Locking and St Mary's Church in Hutton.
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He appeared in court wearing a suit, white shirt and tie.
Following police searches of the vicarage and churches, officers seized a number of items and found 400 Category 1 images – the least serious – and 84 movies of the same category. Hi-tech examination of computers seized also revealed 51 Category 2 images, three Category 3 and 4 images and one Category 4 movie.
Lee, who has since moved to Bodmin, Cornwall, was arrested and admitted to police that he had set up the cameras.
Andrea Edwards, prosecuting, said: "During the course of the [police] interview, he admitted that the images and film were for his own sexual gratification. He viewed them himself and said he did not share any of the images or video. He knew that they were wrong, but used them for his sexual gratification."
Mrs Edwards added that the children shown in the images were under the age of 16. The offences took place between January 2000 and July 2012.
Magistrates committed the case to Bristol Crown Court for sentencing on March 4.
Lee, who only spoke in the hearing to confirm his name, age, address and guilty pleas, was granted conditional bail.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells confirmed that, in accordance with the Clergy Discipline Measure, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Right Reverend Peter Price, suspended Lee from active ministry as soon as he was arrested. A spokesman added: "Reverend Richard Lee appeared in North Somerset Magistrates' Court this morning charged with 26 sexual offences. He pleaded guilty to all counts. We have nothing further to add while legal proceedings continue."