A senior doctor who embarked on an expedition to take pictures of ‘forest scenery’ ended up secretly filming a young woman’s legs with a hidden camera, a Manchester medical tribunal heard today.
Married father-of-three Dr Steven Forde, 45, a consultant anaesthetist, followed the unsuspecting woman around a city centre after spotting her dressed in a mini-skirt when he returned from a trip to woodlands to take photos of spring flowers.
He was spotted by a security guard in York ‘acting suspiciously’ with a camera in his satchel and two police community support officers were summoned to intervene.
When they asked Dr Forde what he was up to the former RAF medic, who once served in Bosnia and Kosovo, admitted he had been filming the woman for five minutes and even revealed he had done it before and had more images of women at home, the tribunal was told.
On closer inspection, his canvas satchel bag was said to have been ‘adapted’ to contain a camera with a telescopic lens, which protruded through a concealed hole at the bottom of the bag.
They also found a remote switch in the front pouch which could be used to control the camera, it was said.
Forde was later charged with outraging public decency by using the concealed camera to take pictures of her legs without her consent.
But he was acquitted of the charge on the day of his trial when prosecutors offered no evidence.
Today Dr Forde from Haxby, near York, appeared on the opening day of a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service fitness to practice hearing, where he admitted his actions were sexually motivated – but he blamed his behaviour on ‘stresses’ in his job.
“I felt like my whole world had collapsed and this was the end and that’s it,” he said.
The doctor claimed the incident followed three ‘stressful events’ in his professional life including a formal complaint made against him by a patient who said he was ‘rude and aggressive’.
He said he had to give evidence at the General Medical Council after a medical student he was in charge of continued onto third year even though he hadn’t been signed off.
In a third incident he said he had to help transfer a three-week-old baby to Leeds hospital but the baby died.
Giving evidence Dr Forde said: “I found the experience one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done. Those legal practises – most of us are not used to this sort of environment.
“It doesn’t justify what I did, but in my mind the stresses inhibited me from dealing with the behaviour that was causing this.”
The incident with the camera on May 9 last year occurred after he had been on call from midnight May 8 to 8am, according to Dr Forde.
He also said he had interest in nature photography and added: “I was looking for forest scenery. I wanted spring flowers, that sort of scene. I then went to the city centre.
“I was going away with friends for the weekend to play hockey. I was going to buy some clothes and to pack and head off the following morning. I had the camera with me.
“I only took one lens. A 70-200mm telephoto zoom with 1.4 times extender focal length 98-220mm. It is the lens for pictures in the medium to far distance.
“The camera was in the bottom of the bag. It was a messenger type bag with a side pouch and the camera in the bottom with an aperture cut at the front of the bag for the lens to see through and the lens was covered by a filter and there was a digital viewfinder plugged into the camera and that was hidden in the side pouch.”
When asked by his lawyer Mark Ainsworth why the lens was covered by a filter and looking through the front of the bag, he added: “To conceal the end of it so if somebody looked they wouldn’t see what was behind it.”
He said he used the video mode on his camera to take moving footage and added: ”I took footage of a woman walking down the pavement through the centre of town. The security didn’t see me recording the footage at the time but I had already recorded it before he saw me stop on the corner of the street. I went to record a woman walking towards me and I stopped and started to set up the camera up to record.
“It was quite a long sequence I had to go through to switch it on and start recording, switch the viewfinder on and try and find the subject then focus manually with my hand in the bag. So I had gone through this and by which time had changed my mind and decided not to film.
“I switched it off and carried on walking. Then I saw a man run across the street shouting ‘I’m detaining you for voyeurism’ and I believed he must have been watching me earlier in the day when I had recorded the footage. He saw me fiddling with my bag and then I switched it off.
“The phrase legs, skirt and body came from the security man. He told police that’s what I was filming but I was also recording her hands, head, feet, fingers – it was a full-length video.”
He accepted he hadn’t asked the woman for her permission to take the film.
Earlier counsel for the GMC Natasha Tahta said: “On May 9 last year Dr Forde was seen by a security guard in York city centre acting suspiciously.
“He was found with a satchel canvas bag which had been adapted to contain a camera with a telescopic lens which protruded between a concealed hole at the bottom. There was a hand-held remote fire switch in the front pouch.
“Two police community support officers attended and they found Dr Forde carrying the bag containing the hidden camera with the telescopic lens and spoke to him. He admitted that he had been filming a young lady for about five minutes and he had done this before and had more images of other females at home.
“In due course he was charged with an offence of outraging public decency then acquitted when the CPS offered no evidence. The conduct amounts to misconduct as he videoed the legs and skirt and the lady was in a public place.”
Dr Forde qualified as a doctor in 1991 and was suspended on an interim basis from practicing as a doctor by the GMC after the allegation was made.
But he returned to work in March under conditions where he must be chaperoned if dealing with a female.
He has been qualified as an anaesthetist since 1999 and for several years has held a post in York Hospital’s anaesthetics department. He has also worked at York’s Clifton Park Hospital.
The hearing continues.
Story via Cavendish Press.
Image courtesy of korafotomorgana, with thanks.