Student calls for stricter voyeurism punishment after discovering stepfather hid camera among teddies

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Apr 24, 2024 at 01:01 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Catherine Simpson, a 21-year-old student from Northampton, is advocating for stricter penalties for voyeurism following a harrowing ordeal at the hands of her stepfather, Paul Sellwood. After turning 18, Simpson made a disturbing discovery: Sellwood had covertly placed a hidden camera among her teddy bears and had been capturing intimate moments of her undressing. What’s even more upsetting? The 48-year-old received a mere 22 months in prison for the offence.

According to The Independent, in September 2021, a few weeks before Simpson’s 19th birthday, the student received a distressing call from her brother. During their conversation, he revealed that he had stumbled upon a picture of Simpson in her work uniform on their family iPad. What made this discovery even more unsettling was his elaboration that the photo appeared to have been taken from atop her wardrobe.

This violation of privacy left Simpson devastated, shedding tears in her bedroom as she later uncovered over 300 images and videos of herself, many depicting her naked on her bed. As reported by the publication, Simpson had allegedly made attempts to raise concerns about Sellwood’s inappropriate behaviour towards her and tendency to make lewd comments throughout her upbringing. However, her pleas fell on deaf ears. Now, as the 21-year-old reflects on her traumatic experience, Simpson is determined to ensure that perpetrators like Sellwood face more severe consequences for their actions.

After making the horrific discovery, Simpson’s coworkers rushed to support her, prompting her to report her stepfather to the Northamptonshire Police. Sellwood was subsequently arrested and admitted to voyeurism, confessing to authorities that he had recorded her “for his own sexual gratification.”

Later that same evening, authorities notified Simpson of Sellwood’s arrest and the discovery of the camera hidden among stuffed teddies in her room. Simpson described the moment, sharing: “It was a sickening feeling, and I felt overwhelming anxiety and panic.”

Following this, law enforcement confiscated Sellwood’s electronic devices, while the young student disposed of all the teddies, each accumulated as part of a family tradition, as she “couldn’t stomach looking at them.”

Recalling her police interview, Simpson shared: “I cried and screamed during parts of it because I vividly remember one question: ‘What are you scared of Paul seeing?’ I simply replied, ‘Me naked and engaging in private activities in my room’.” The 21-year-old then continued: “I don’t think it’s something that will ever fade away.”

Sellwood admitted to six charges, including voyeurism, making indecent photographs of a child, possessing prohibited images of a child, and possessing extreme pornographic images portraying bestiality.

The 48-year-old received his sentencing at Northampton Crown Court on 21 September 2023, where he was handed a 22-month imprisonment term for these charges. Specifically, 16 months were allocated for voyeurism, and Sellwood was also subjected to a 10-year sexual harm prevention order.

During the sentencing, Simpson, though not present, confronted the profound injustice of the situation, particularly concerning the glaring contrast between her abuser’s lenient punishment and the lasting impact of his actions on her life. Calling the sentence a mere “slap on the wrist,” Simpson vowed to spare others from similar ordeals. In her pursuit of justice, she launched a Government petition advocating for stricter penalties for sex offences, including voyeurism.

Expressing her frustration, Simspon, speaking with PA Real Life as shared in The Independent,  stated: “I understand that it’s such a big achievement to get someone like that behind bars, but on my part, I just honestly do think it’s disgusting how short the sentence is. If the police caught me with cannabis in my bedroom, I’d probably get longer (in prison), and I don’t understand it. The impact he’s had on me and my whole family, it feels like he’s just getting a slap on the wrist at the end of the day.”

Simpson’s petition has garnered over 760 signatures. In her victim impact statement read to the court, the young woman recounted the struggles she dealt with following the offence: “I was rarely sober, drinking and taking different drugs at least four times a week, clubbing until early hours, and winning social bonus points by being the drunkest in any room. I just stopped caring… I just wanted to forget and move from one day to the next.”

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