Hadleigh voyeuristic vicar Martin Thrower spared jail after filming teenager in Ipswich public toilet
- Credit: Su Anderson
A “well-regarded” Suffolk clergyman who filmed men using a public toilet in an Ipswich shopping centre has been sentenced to a suspended four-month jail term.
The Very Rev Martin Thrower, of Church Street, Hadleigh, and rector of Hadleigh, Layham and Shelley. admitted two counts of voyeurism at an earlier hearing at Norwich Crown Court.
William Carter, prosecuting, said the 56-year-old rector was caught when a 17-year-old heard a noise above him as he sat on the toilet at the Buttermarket shopping centre.
The teenager saw someone’s hand holding a mobile phone that was filming him over the cubicle partition. He grabbed the phone and Thrower was arrested.
Judge Katharine Moore told Thrower he had been “well-regarded” by those he helped, adding he had been a listening ear “in times of great sadness and some in happier times”.
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She told him: “It seems to me that there has been a tendency throughout to attribute this persistent behaviour over a two-year period to a breakdown in your mental health.
“I accept without reservation that you were working very hard.
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“I accept without reservation that you felt under great strain.
“I do not accept that your actions here though were anything other than an exercise of free choice repeated again and again when you thought you could get away with it in public lavatories.”
She sentenced Thrower on each count to four months in prison, suspended for 24 months, to run concurrently.
Thrower was also ordered to complete a 60-day course to address sex offending behaviour and a further 30-day rehabilitation course.
Thrower had been arrested after the incident on August 4 last year and officers found three further videos recorded on the phone that day, including of two men who had not noticed they were being filmed.
Officers later found, on further examination of the phone, almost 600 similar images.
They also found four similar videos on a computer seized from Thrower’s home, as well as evidence that Thrower had accessed “professionally made pornography” on the theme of men using a toilet which “utterly destroyed the defence being put forward” that his actions were not sexually motivated, Mr Carter said.
At interview, Thrower said he had been taking such footage “for a couple of years since 2014” at places including supermarkets and service stations, the court heard.
Mr Carter said Thrower claimed he had a stomach ache and was in the cubicle for an hour playing solitaire when “he said he had this weird kind of desire to see who was in the toilet next to (him)”.
Thrower has been suspended from all roles by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury in Ipswich.
Thrower had denied the charges but changed his pleas on the first day of his trial after his 17-year-old victim gave evidence.
Stephen Nelson, mitigating, said Thrower was of previous good character, was “deeply remorseful” and added that the public gallery was full of people supporting him.
He said Thrower was under pressure at work and “his health had suffered to the point where he felt he needed isolation and, for want of a better word, some form of experimentation”
The Venerable Dr David Jenkins, Archdeacon of Sudbury, said: “Martin Thrower was sentenced for voyeurism and I would repeat our unreserved apology to those affected by his actions.
“The impact on those affected can be devastating and I commend their courage in reporting this to Suffolk police.”
He said Thrower remains suspended, and now he has been sentenced his “future as a clergyman will be decided”.
Canon John Parr, the interim parish priest for the Benefice of Hadleigh, said: “Most people find it difficult to simply forgive, as if forgiveness means feeling that we haven’t been hurt.
“Forgiveness is more like a journey than an event. It takes time.
“At the moment we don’t know what forgiveness will look like.
“But we trust that by the grace of God, we’ll get there.”
Claire Woods, administrator of the Hadleigh Benefice, said: “There has been disappointment, sadness and anger locally, but we can now move forward as a parish.”