“It’s just typical gang stalking Britain! Voyuerism, stalking your neighbours and downloading child pornography… Everyone’s at it!”
Decorated GCHQ employee, 39, is released after spending a ‘terrible’ night in jail for filming women and a young girl in their homes and downloading child pornography
By James Gant For Mailonline
- Mark Nicholls, 39, is a civilian intelligence workers to get the Afghanistan Medal
- But he led a secret life as a child sex offender and voyeur, a court heard Thursday
- Police arrested Nicholls and seized his computer, with child pornography on it
- He had also covertly filmed three women and eight-year-old girl near his home
- Nicholls of Stonehouse in Gloucestershire, got a three-year community order
- He also got a 10-year restraining order barring him from contacting his victims
A decorated GCHQ worker led a sordid secret life as a child sex offender and voyeur, filming women and a young girl in the privacy of their homes, a court heard.ADVERTISEMENT
Mark Nicholls, 39, one of the few civilian intelligence workers to have been awarded the Afghanistan Medal for his services, was caught when he took his computer for repair and indecent images of girls were found, Gloucester crown court was told yesterday.
Police arrested Nicholls and seized his computer and found that as well as downloading child pornography he had also been covertly filming three women and an eight-year-old girl near his home.
Film taken through windows and from hidden locations revealed the women undressing or breast feeding.
There was also film of a naked eight-year-old girl using a paddling pool in her garden.
Nicholls, from Stonehouse, nr Stroud, Gloucestershire, pleaded guilty to five charges of recording people doing private acts in Quedgeley, Gloucester, between January 2011 and December 2017.
He admitted three charges of possessing indecent images of children between August 2 to August 6, 2018, and one of downloading indecent images between August 2012 and August 2018.
He also admitted three offences of taking indecent pictures of a girl between June 2011 and May 2012.
His case began at the crown court on Wednesday when Judge Ian Lawrie QC heard the facts before adjourning overnight and remanding Nicholls in custody ‘to reflect on his past and his future’.
Yesterday he concluded the case and heard Nicholls had found his night in prison ‘terrible’.
The judge allowed Nicholls to walk free from court with a three-year community order and an order to pay a total of £20,000 compensation to the four voyeurism victims – £5,000 each.
Prosecutor Giles Nelson told the court Nicholls took his personal computer to a shop to be repaired in August 2018 and when the engineer discovered indecent images of children aged between 11 and 15 he called the police.
‘Officers attended Nicholls’ home address and seized the rest of his computer equipment and was analysed by specialists,’ Mr Nelson said.
‘Nicholls’ computer contained three category A videos – the most serious category – 11 in category B and 67 in category C. There were also 1,201 still images of category C.
‘There were also 31 still photographs and numerous videos of a local woman undressing, which she was unaware of.
‘She was devastated to find out what had been going on without her knowledge. The situation has turned her life upside down.
‘Nicholls had also focused his lens on the home of another woman who lived nearby, and captured her entering the room and undressing,’ Mr Nelson said.ADVERTISEMENT
‘This woman was ”sad and humiliated” when told of his actions,’ the prosecutor said.
‘Another neighbour was photographed breast feeding her baby in her back garden which is surrounded by a six foot fence – which should have provided her with a degree of privacy.
‘She stated that this incident has left her feeling anxious.’
The court was told about another episode of Nicholls’ voyeurism when he photographed a young girl.
‘He captured a naked girl, aged about eight, playing in a paddling pool, focusing on her private parts,’ added Mr Nelson.
‘The child and her mother are shocked and devastated that this has happened.’
Judge Lawrie said: ‘This is a gross intrusion of privacy. He has a voyeuristic obsession. These videos are truly appalling.’
Mr Nelson said: ‘Nicholls admitted in interview that he taken the videos for his own sexual gratification.’
Nicholas Jones, defending, said: ‘Nicholls says that the deterioration of his marriage was the reason why he turned to pornography on the internet and soon developed a pornography addiction by downloading illegal images.
‘He claims that his obsessive compulsive disorder played a role in his addiction and to the way he categorised everything.
‘This is a defendant who has documented his life in pictures.
‘He also accepts that his curiosity was behind him taking pictures of neighbours.
‘Since his arrest in August last year Nicholls has done a lot of self-examination and soul searching and has sought help for his problem.
‘This is somebody who has looked at the whole topic so as to put himself in a better position in the future.
‘He fully admits that his sexual deviance is a departure from the accepted norm.’
Judge Lawrie observed: ‘But he has still not quite accepted the level of his offending as he has problems over his sexual deviancy. However he has taken a small step in the right direction.’
Mr Jones concluded: ‘Nicholls’ offending has brought to an end of a 20-year career working for the government at Cheltenham. He is one of the few civilians to be awarded the Afghanistan Service Medal.
‘He has lost his job, his marriage has ended and he understands that he will never again be able to work with computers.
‘He knows he will never have the same level of responsibility again and he has started retraining for work within the forestry industry.ADVERTISEMENT
‘Nicholls has taken steps to address his past and I submit that there is a good prospect of rehabilitation for him if the court does not pass an immediate prison sentence.’
Judge Lawrie announced he had decided to adjourn the hearing overnight and he would be locking Nicholls up.
‘I am adjourning this hearing today and remanding Nicholls in custody – at Hewell prison in Worcestershire – where he can reflect on his past and his future.’
At this point Nicholls started sobbing in the dock.
When the hearing resumed yesterday afternoon the judge asked Nicholls about his time in prison.
Nicholls replied: ‘It was a terrible experience.
‘I have reflected on what I did and I have realised the error of my ways. It’s a path I shall never go down again.’
The judge told Nicholls: ‘I wanted to give you a taste of what your future could be as you’ve never experienced custody before and I wasn’t convinced that you had learnt your lesson.’
He continued: ‘Your actions cross the custody threshold by some margin. Your offending has caused a lot of distress to your victims.
‘You have an unhealthy obsession for young girls. You also didn’t seem to appreciate that you were invading people’s private spaces and the hurt that this has caused.
‘I accept that you have taken some steps on your own accord in realising you have a problem.
‘A community order is an onerous sentence and in your case it is more applicable in these circumstances than a prison sentence as there is a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.
‘You have already taken the first steps to confront your deviance. I am doing it this way so if you fail to comply with the order then you can be sent to jail.’
The judge gave Nicholls a three-year community order with 40 programme requirement sessions.
He told Nicholls he will monitor and review his progress monthly.
The judge also imposed a 10-year restraining order barring Nicholls from contacting his victims as well as a sexual harm prevention order limiting his use of the internet for 10 years.
Nicholls was placed on the sex offenders register for five years.
The judge ordered Nicholls to pay £5,000 compensation to each to his four voyeurism victims plus court costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £85.ADVERTISEMENT
Judge Lawrie also ordered for the forfeiture and destruction of Nicholls’ computer.