New changing facilities to stop perverts peeking

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SPORTS centre bosses will be introducing measures to prevent perverts peering around cubicles in the changing village in Hemel Hempstead as part of an £800,000 revamp.

New cubicles will run to the floor and ceiling and the walls will be made of a special material to stop Peeping Toms drilling holes through them.

The move comes as a man was found by a crown court to have put his head under a cubicle at the sports centre as a mother undressed her six-year-old son.

Rebecca Hemmant, operations director at Sports Space, said: “As part of the changing room refurbishment we will look for the cubicles to be much closer to the floor and the ceiling.

“We’ve had people who drill through the side of cubicles – there is a different type of material that can be used.

“All these precautions for issues that have arisen over they years, will hopefully be rectified by that.”

The work also includes expanding the gym at the sports centre and refitting the changing areas.

On Friday a judge at St Albans Crown Court decided Martin Burke, 24, of Ebberns Road in Hemel Hempstead, needed an assessment by a psychiatrist after a jury found he had committed one charge of observing a person doing a private act.

Prosecutor Alison Ginn said on April 20 last year the mother had arrived with her son and Burke’s head appeared under the cubicle partition. She and her son got out, reported him to reception and the police were called.

Burke came out of the cubicle 10 to 15 minutes later fully clothed and wearing sunglasses.

Burke claimed he had been stretching his back on the floor when he looked at the mother and boy as the youngster was getting ready for a swimming lesson.

He was cleared of another charge of observing a person doing a private act.

He had not been present during the hearing because Judge Andrew Bright QC ruled that he was unfit to be tried.

The judge said: “It is an unusual case because, based on psychiatric and psychological evidence, the defendant is suffering from a mental incapacity.”

Burke was allowed to sit behind his barrister Patricia May as the jury returned their decision.

After the verdict the court heard Burke had been banned from TK Maxx in Hemel Hempstead for staring at young women.

Mrs May said Burke needed ‘structured input’ in his life. She said since his arrest in April last year there had been no repetition of this behaviour.

Judge Bright adjourned sentencing for six weeks so Burke can be assessed by a psychiatrist at the specialist Eric Shepherd Unit in Abbots Langley,

He said: “My concern is not to punish him. It is to endeavour to get him all the help that can be given. The public at large is not prepared to put up with this type of behaviour.”