The married founder of a children’s soft play area firm caught covertly filming schoolgirls getting changing at his local swimming pool has been jailed for 16 months.
CCTV captured Eddie Catz founder Darren Johnson, 51, “stalking” two 14-year-old girls from a swimming pool before entering the cubicle next to theirs and filming them change by poking his mobile phone underneath the partition.
When the company director was arrested, police found hundreds of explicit photos of women taken from two “peepholes” at a public toilet at one of his company sites.
He also filmed mothers, their children and staff using public toilets at an Eddie Catz and of his female employees at his company’s private changing rooms.
The clean-shaven father-of-two looked to the floor in the dock as he was sentenced at Kingston Crown Court after pleading guilty to five counts of voyeurism in July.
Judge Andrew Campbell said: “These were dreadful offences because first of all some of them involved children, at the Putney Leisure Centre and almost inevitably at the premises of Eddie Catz.
“Secondly, the number of adult women that you recorded – no one can give a figure as to how many there were but there must have been not less than 30 or 40 and probably many more.
“Thirdly, the extraordinary breach of trust at Eddie Catz.
“You were making images of women who you were employing and you were making images of mothers and children who trusted you when they were using your play facilities at Eddie Catz.
“Any woman or child who knows they have been recorded by you or may have been recorded by you is bound to be deeply upset because of what you have done.
“All these offences were committed at different times and in more than on location.”
Referring to a psychiatric report made on Johnson, the Judge added: “This is an established pattern of behaviour.
“In my view there’s nothing in that that explains or minimises the crimes you have committed.
“I realise of course the devastating effect that this will have and will continue to have on your wife and our business.”
Prosecutor Lauren Sales told the court yesterday: “There’s CCTV in this case which shows the defendant stalking children around the leisure centre and attends the leisure centre at times, the times when schools have swim clubs.
“He goes up to the swimming pool, sees the kids, sees them using the facilities, stalks the to the shower area and stalks them to the cubicle area and goes into the cubicle next to them.
“The Crown cannot agree that he was not looking to record 14-year-old girls as it’s quite clear from the CCTV.
“There was a 12-year-old that he was following, it’s almost shown very clearly on the CCTV.”
The incident at Putney Leisure Centre happened on June 5 last year and she added: “It was on that occasion that two 14-year-old girls attended their school swimming clubs.
“Mr Johnson, as outlined on the CCTV with the description from the officers, is seen walking around the changing facilities, he goes to the swimming pool, he walks around the centre with no particular purpose, he sees the girls and follows those girls.
“There’s also a 12-year-old girl, she’s not subject to any count on our indictment.
“They enter a cubicle together and he purposely enters the cubicle next to theirs.
“The two girls were undressing after swimming club and they saw a iPhone6 which they have identified pointing to them from the adjacent cubicle.
“Mr Johnson was later identified by staff on the CCTV.
“Police attended his home address, and computers were seized. All the images on our counts were located on these computers.”
At his £1.5 million home there were 150 files of photos taken at Putney Leisure Centre but more had been deleted.
Ms Sales said: “They show female genitalia, breasts exposed, breasts and women in various states of undress.
“It seems that the only images that were retained so to speak were the explicit ones.”
The court also heard how he drilled holes into two public toilets and used a bag with a hidden camera to take indecent photos of women at an Eddie Catz site in Earlsfield, Surrey.
Ms Sales added “these images again show naked genitalia.”
She said he took images of women at a third toilet at the site by poking his mobile phone underneath partitions between cubicles.
Johnson also pleaded guilty to taking indecent images of his employees at a private changing room from January 1 2005 to February 8 2012.
His barrister Tom Williams in mitigation said his client had an alcohol problem, had argued with his wife and was drunk when he filmed the girls at the leisure centre.
He said: “This is somebody who does recognise that he has had a serious issue.
“He and his wife have two children, both of them had to receive therapy since all of this came out.
“He accepts what he did was completely wrong and now he has been able to think through in a way that makes some sense he is thoroughly sorry for what he has done.”
Johnson, of Putney, west London, was jailed for four months for two counts of voyeurism concerning the 14-year-old girls, to run concurrently.
He was also jailed for four months for the three other voyeurism counts, to run consecutively – making a total of 16 months in jail.
He has to sign the Sexual Offenders Register and comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years.
Johnson, who has children aged 18 and 20, resigned as director of Eddie Catz last September after the allegations came to light.
His wife Maria Johnson, 51, is still a director at Eddie Catz.
By Ben Gelblum and Berny Torre