Somerset voyeur vicar Richard Lee spared jail

image captionLee was also told he will also have to sign the sexual offenders' register

A Church of England vicar has been spared jail after admitting using hidden cameras to film intimate pictures of three children and a woman.

The Reverend Richard Lee, 49, moved from Kent to work at two churches near Weston-Super-Mare five years ago.

A judge at Bristol Crown Court sentenced Lee to eight-months imprisonment suspended for two years.

Lee, who has since moved to Bodmin, had previously pleaded guilty to eight counts of voyeurism.

He also admitted 18 counts of making indecent images.

'Lasting damage'

Judge Neil Ford, QC, said: "I have agonised about my public duty in this case. While sentences of imprisonment must be imposed, they can be suspended.

"It is right to say there is nothing I can do by way of punishment that will come close to the dreadful loss you have brought upon yourself."

Lee was also told he will have to sign the sex offenders' register and was disqualified from working with children indefinitely.

In a statement from the Bath and Wells Diocese, the Right Reverend Peter Price said: "I am dismayed and extremely sorry that he has failed to meet the very high standards of personal integrity we expect of priests in the Church of England.

"He has brought lasting damage and pain to those people directly affected by his actions, and my thoughts and prayers are with them.

The offending took place over a ten-year period, in Weston-super-Mare where he was a priest in the diocese of Bath and Wells, and also in Gillingham, Kent.

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 naked victims, but was found out when the pictures were spotted on his laptop.

Images deleted

Following police searches of the vicarage in Locking, officers seized a number of computers and hard drives.

They found 400 category-one images - the least serious - and 84 movies of the same category.

High-tech examination also revealed 51 category-two images, three category-three and four images and one category-four movie.

He also searched for images of child abuse on the internet and made copies of the images.

The court heard the "overwhelming majority" of the images had been deleted.

Lee previously officiated at All Saints' Church, 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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