Dozens of unsuspecting women video-recorded in public bathrooms

A homeless man used his cellphone to record 78 unsuspecting women using the toilet in public washrooms, provincial court has heard.

Garth Galligan, 34, pleaded guilty to unlawfully recording the women in places where they could reasonably expect to have privacy. Galligan also pleaded guilty to breaching his probation by being in the women’s washroom at the Empress Hotel on Aug. 26, 2019. He will be sentenced next week.

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Crown prosecutor Lexi Pace told the court that Galligan breached his probation on the same day he was released from jail after serving time for a sexual assault in the women’s washroom of the Royal British Columbia Museum and a disturbing incident at the McDonald’s on Douglas Street.

In December 2018, Galligan approached a young woman in the women’s washroom at the museum, tried to push her into a stall and groped her. Another woman intervened and he ran off.

Galligan also followed a woman into the washroom at the McDonald’s and propositioned her for sex. Galligan was pushing on a stall door to see if it was locked and not taking no for an answer, said Pace. The woman yelled at him to leave and called police.

Within hours of his release, Galligan was found by a member of the hotel’s housekeeping staff standing topless on a toilet seat with his pants around his ankles. She ordered him to leave.

On Sept. 1, another housekeeper walked into the women’s washroom and found a sign taped outside a toilet stall. The door was slightly ajar and the housekeeper saw Galligan naked inside the stall. She was frightened, told him to leave and alerted security, but Galligan fled, said Pace.

On Oct. 7, a woman using a bathroom stall at the hotel noticed a cellphone screen coming from the stall beside her when she flushed the toilet, said Pace. “She was horrified and didn’t know how to react. The phone was then pulled back into the occupied stall. The woman was shaken and reported the matter.”

Galligan fled but he was later identified through security cameras at the hotel.

On Oct. 10, Galligan was arrested and his cellphone was seized, said Pace. Police found a video which was a compilation of other videos showing 58 women in toilet stalls.

“These are single clips which have been strung together in one video. Most reveal the women’s buttocks and genital areas,” said Pace. “From watching the video, I can say it might surprise the court how proximal and clear the view is. … It’s extremely intimate and invasive.”

The Oct. 6 video is 46 minutes and 18 seconds in length and Galligan’s face appears on the video 13 times, she said. It’s believed the video clips were recorded between Aug. 26 and Oct. 6.

A further 20 women were video recorded between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8.

Of the 78 women, six were not recorded in a state of undress or using the toilet.

No one’s face was visible on the video, except Galligan’s. It’s not clear where the videos were taken.

Galligan suffers from serious mental-health problems and drug addiction. He has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, substance use disorder for both cannabis and amphetamines, anti-social personality disorder and paraphilic disorder.

Galligan was required to report daily to the Assertive Community Treatment team, which helps him. Although Galligan was ordered to live at the Salvation Army, he didn’t and he began using hard drugs, said Pace.

Galligan was warned by the Crown to abide by his conditions, but breaches persisted.

Mitigating factors are Galligan’s Indigenous background and his early guilty pleas, said the prosecutor.

“This is not a trial that anyone wants to attend,” Pace said.

Galligan’s planned, deliberate, practiced actions are aggravating factors, she said. “It’s not impulsive. It’s not a one-off at all.”

Even though he’s under the highest level of supervision in the community, he still visited women’s washrooms at the Empress Hotel three times in a 2 1/2-month period.

Court-ordered reports prepared to assist with sentencing show Galligan has a high risk to reoffend.

Pace and defence lawyer Alex Tait presented a joint submission to the court asking for an 18-month global sentence followed by a three-year probation order.

“This is a very difficult case and Mr. Tait and I have been struggling with it. We’ve had numerous discussions,” said Pace. After his release for these offences, Galligan will be referred again to the Assertive Community Treatment team, she said.

Tait noted that his client’s offending only started at age 30 in 2016.

Galligan was apprehended at birth from the Buffalo Tribe in Saskatchewan and was eventually adopted at age five.

“His underlying problem is homelessness. He has nowhere to go,” said Tait. Galligan now understands his behaviour unacceptable, said the defence lawyer.

“He has a long road ahead to get help. He needs to stay away from drugs and get housed. … If he had his own place to go, he may have a much better opportunity for success,” said Tait.

“Last time, he was released to the street or the Sally Ann.”

The judge is expected to sentence Galligan on Tuesday.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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