St. Albert man gets time-served for years-long voyeurism spree

0
139

Article content

A St. Albert man who admitted to peeping through nearly two dozen women’s windows has been sentenced to probation and the time he served in custody prior to trial.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

On Wednesday, Justice Paul Belzil sentenced Vincent James Whitford to four months in jail followed by a year-and-a-half of probation, after a joint recommendation from Crown and defence.

Whitford, who was out on bail, was allowed to leave the courtroom after Belzil determined the time he spent in pre-trial custody was sufficient to denounce and deter his crimes.

“This court sees no merit in assessing you additional time in custody,” Belzil told him.

Whitford admitted in July to leering through the windows of 23 women between 2012 and 2016. In some instances, he photographed or video recorded his targets. Many of the women were never identified and do not know they were victimized, Crown prosecutor Alison Magill told court.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Whitford, who is in his late 30s, was charged in 2019 with 31 counts of voyeurism after a “lengthy” RCMP investigation.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Whitford first came to police attention in May 2016, when he masturbated in front of a stranger in the parking lot of a local Walmart. Whitford was in his vehicle at the time and attracted the woman’s attention by placing a note on her windshield that read “I liked you watching me,” followed by a phone number.

The woman called police and while she could not identify Whitford from a photo line-up, both the phone number from the note and vehicle belonged to Whitford’s wife.

The agreed facts detail several other run-ins Whitford had with police, but do not make clear why Whitford wasn’t charged until 2019. Magill told court that there were difficulties identifying the majority of the women in the photos, and only one is ultimately named in court records.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

After the Walmart incident, in November 2016, a woman in St. Albert’s Lester Crescent neighbourhood found an unlocked iPhone in her backyard. She opened the phone and found voyeuristic pictures of women in various states of undress. She also discovered two videos of children naked in a changing room. Police later traced the phone to Whitford and obtained a warrant to search the device.

On March 1, 2017, another woman in the Lester Crescent area told St. Albert RCMP that she had seen a strange man in her backyard. Police found Whitford hiding behind a tree and charged him with trespassing. Whitford had in his possession several suspicious items including a GoPro on a stick, cellphones, a pair of binoculars and a backpack containing multiple pairs of women’s underwear.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The woman who reported Whitford told police that her neighbour had had a similar experienced the previous summer, when she found a man on all fours outside her home. Investigators showed the woman an image from the iPhone which she confirmed was herself.

Police then obtained a warrant to search Whitford’s home and found a variety of cameras, smart phones and tablets.

Detectives later interviewed Whitford and discussed his instance of public masturbation. He denied ever breaking into anyone’s home, saying “that’s not my thing … I’ve never broken that barrier.”

He added: “I’ve looked and I’ve snapped photos before.”

RCMP announced charges against Whitford after another suspicious incident in May 2019. He ultimately faced 33 charges but was allowed to plead guilty to two: a count each of voyeurism and committing an indecent act.

He was released from remand in July after serving four months with enhanced credit for pre-trial custody. His probation order includes 20 conditions including a curfew and a prohibition on attending public pools.

Magill said Whitford should be given credit for his guilty plea, which saved the Crown a “difficult” trial which would have included 17 witnesses.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

Advertisement

Story continues below

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.