A stepfather secretly filmed his stepdaughter in the bath for three years before she spotted his phone above the bathroom door on the eve of her 18th birthday.
Lauren Brightwood said she looked up to Thomas Craig Lewis as a father since she was aged four.
But over the course of three years the 35-year-old had secretly recorded her naked – starting when she was just 14.
Lauren Brightwood said she looked up to Thomas Craig Lewis as a father since she was aged four. Lewis, from Llanelli, South Wales, admitted filming her while she was having a bath at the family’s home in Northampton
Lewis, from Llanelli in South Wales, initially claimed he thought he heard her crying, but changed his story to say he was curious to see what she looked like as an adult.
Appearing at Northampton Crown Court on Tuesday, Lewis was hit with a 10 month prison sentence – suspended for 18 months – after admitting to two counts of voyeurism.
Ms Brightwood spotted Lewis’ camera at the bathroom window in 2018.
She said: ‘I went into a state of shock, I didn’t really know how to process it. This is not something that people normally have to deal with and I didn’t know what to do.
‘I am anxious when entering bathrooms as I don’t want something to happen to me again. I don’t think this is fair.
‘Craig is not my biological dad but I treated him like once since age four.’
Lauren is pictured dancing with Lewis when she was a young girl. She said she had looked up to him as a father since the age of four
Ms Brightwood added: ‘Craig is not my biological dad but I treated him like once since age four’
Prosecuting counsel Ben Gow said Ms Brightwood immediately texted her mother Michelle from the bathroom to avoid alerting Lewis.
She then confronted her partner of 13 years about what was going on – and he admitted he had made recordings of Lauren ‘a couple of times’ in the house and in the family’s previous home in Wales.
The police were called and investigations took place. Lewis later handed himself into a police station to confess what he’d done.
He told officers he had made between five and 10 video recordings of the teenager between the ages of 14 and 17 years old. Lauren, who bravely waived her right to anonymity, said she now suffers from anxiety and depression as well as a suspected eating disorder as a result of what happened.
She added: ‘I began drinking more than I should have. I just wanted to get out of the house, I would go anywhere just to get away.’
She also described the toll of the recordings on her mother – and the court heard the pair suffered financially after Lewis was forced to leave their home and then lost his job.
Addressing the judge, the Crown’s cousel Mr Gow said Michelle ‘went into complete shock’. He added: ‘She has seen her daughter go from child to adult overnight. All she wanted for her was security but the defendant has taken that away from her.’
David Singh, defending, said his client had no previous convictions, had sought professional help for his actions and had pleaded guilty to two counts of voyeurism. However, Judge Rebecca Crane said it was clear from a pre-sentence report that the defendant had not accepted the reasons behind his actions.
She said: ‘I do not consider you are yet being honest to yourself and everyone else.’ In total, Lewis, from Llanelli, was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to undertake 30 days of rehabilitation activity requirement and to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
Despite a request from WalesOnline to release Lewis’ custody photograph, Northampshire Police refused.
The force said it did not it issue custody photos for defendants who were handed immediate custodial sentences less than 12 months.
Speaking about the sentencing, Ms Brightwood said: ‘The sentence wasn’t what I wanted but we have to go with it. ‘It’s a shame but I’m just glad it’s over with.’ She added that she wanted people to be aware of Lewis’ actions and the sentence he received.
Northampton Crown Court heard Ms Brightwood sent a text message to her mother about the incident, in order not to alert Lewis
Lewis, from Llanelli, was handed a 10-month jail term suspended for 18 months.
He was also ordered to participate in 30 days’ of rehabilitation activity and provide 100 hours of unpaid work.
The court heard Lewis had no previous convictions and has sought help for his offending.