Jail for voyuer hotelier who spied on his own friends

Patrice Renault, manager of the new Etap Hotel on the Dublin Road, Belfast. Pictured: 29/08/2013
Patrice Renault, manager of the new Etap Hotel on the Dublin Road, Belfast. Pictured: 29/08/2013

A former Belfast hotel manager was jailed on Friday for six months for spying on friends with a secret camera hidden inside a clock in his bathroom.

Belfast Crown Court heard that among Patrice Renault’s voyeurism victims was a five-year-old boy who was recorded washing in the shower.

French-born Renault (44), from the Lisburn Road, south Belfast, had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of voyeurism and one of installing equipment for voyeurism.

He further pleaded guilty to 10 charges of making indecent images of children and three counts of possessing extreme pornographic images.

He had been sacked from his job when his offending came to light.

Renault sobbed in the dock the court was told officers from the National Crime Agency and the PSNI called at the defendant’s home in February 2016 after suspicions he had indecent images of children.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC was told Renault handed over his laptop and passwords.

The court heard that while he admitted possessing indecent images of children, he did not mention the voyeurism videos.

The search of his computer equipment revealed almost 1,000 indecent images and extreme pornographic videos. Most related to boys aged 12 to 15 but it also included a boy five of being abused.

Officers also discovered 1,135 voyeurism videos which Renault had recorded. He admitted the 15 people he secretly recorded were friends who had mostly come over from France.

One was a five-year-old who was being showered by his father in Renault’s bathroom.

The prosecutor told the judge: “He told police that when he knew his friends were coming to stay with him he would start recording.

“None of them were aware that they were being covertly recorded. He subsequently informed all of the people recorded about his actions.”

At the time of his arrest, Renault was the manager of a hotel in Belfast city centre.

When his offending came to light he was sacked.

His defence barrister Jonathan Brown said Renault told a probation officer that “he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong” in relation to the voyeurism.

But the judge interjected, saying: “How any right thinking person can hold such a view is baffling. It is a very distorted form of thinking.”

Mr Brown added: “He has a very distorted thinking. He has now suffered a meteoric fall from grace. He is a now a broken and isolated man.

“If you were to put him into prison with his distorted thinking, his thinking will become more distorted with all the other inmates held in a custody establishment in Northern ireland.”

Judge Miller said Renault’s offending showed he had a “warped mentality of a deviant sexual nature”.

Sentencing Renault to two years, the judge said the defendant would spend six months in custody followed by 18 months on supervised licence and recommended the defendant take part in probation programmes.

He was also made the subject of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order for 10 years. The court ordered all seized material be destroyed.