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Ex-BBC presenter faces jail after admitting air freshener spy cam charges

Ex-BBC gardening presenter Steve Brookes of Stratford arrives at Leamington Magistrates with his partner Stephanie Lester. (Photo: Mark Williamson)
Ex-BBC gardening presenter Steve Brookes of Stratford arrives at Leamington Magistrates with his partner Stephanie Lester. (Photo: Mark Williamson)

A BBC gardening presenter faces jail after he admitted secretly filming female tenants showering using a camera hidden in an air freshener.

Stephen Brookes, 55, set up the motion-activated device to capture the footage which could be downloaded to an app on his iPhone.

The celebrity gardener, who has broadcast live from the Chelsea Flower Show, spied on a total of seven women between November 2015 and September last year.

JPs heard the secret camera was hidden inside an air freshener which was placed on top of a cupboard in the bathroom at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

Brookes' filmed seven different women who included lodgers living at his property and other people who had been invited to dinner.

Yesterday (Wednesday), Brookes, of Loxley Road, Stratford, pleaded guilty to seven charges of observing a person doing a private act knowing that the person did not consent to being observed for your sexual gratification at Leamington Spa Magistrates Court.

But magistrates committed the presenter to Warwick Crown Court for sentencing after deciding their powers of sentencing were insufficient.

Chairman of the bench Paul Tasker said: "We have taken into account all of these matters and the severity of the charges you face and we have come to the decision that we do not have enough powers to sentence you appropriately.

"You are therefore committed to Warwick Crown Court on February 8 for a 10am start."

The court heard Brookes, who is a father and grandfather, was arrested in September last year after one of his female tenants spotted the hidden camera in the bathroom.

Police discovered 300 files, including videos taken near a shower and toilet, after seizing a memory card, an iPhone and an iPad belonging to the gardener.

Prosecutor Baldev Atwal said: "All of these offences take place at Mr Brookes' address which is described as a three-bedroom residential address.

"During the commission of these offences the bedrooms upstairs were rented it and it's clear from enquiries made by police officers that the rooms were solely rented out to female tenants.

"These matters came to light when one of the victims was in the shower and noticed an air freshener on top of one of the cupboards.

"She picked it up, it didn't emit any sort of fragrance and her suspicions were aroused and on closer examination she noticed some electric wires and a battery had been placed within that air freshener.

"She liaised with her friend and other tenants and it's clear that all three ladies quickly formed the opinion there was indeed a small hidden camera within that air freshener.

"Matters were reported to the police that evening.

"It appears that the device was on a constant recording loop. The camera was motion activated.

"Mr Brookes iPhone had an application whereby he would become aware of the activation of that camera and could watch the recordings as they were reviewed and unfolded."

The court heard Brookes' seven female victims had expressed their "horror" and "shock" after the camera was uncovered.

Mr Atwal added: "What will clearly trouble this court is that Mr Brookes has gone to some extent and some length as far as planning and setting up the camera is concerned.

"The offences cover a substantial period of time.

"The victims express their horror, their shock, their disgust and indeed some of the recordings clearly show ladies having used the toilet, (and) changing personal items."

Michael Jervis, defending, told the court Brookes appreciated that he was facing a custodial sentence and regarded his own behaviour as "disgraceful and disgusting".

Urging JPs to sentence the celeb gardener at the magistrates court, he added: "He is full of remorse and if there's anything he could do to turn back his actions then he would have done.

"Not because of the fear of going to prison but because of the impact these acts had on the victims.

"He considers his behaviour to be disgraceful, he considers his behaviour to be disgusting.

"Mr Brookes himself has a reputation locally of great repute, he has become a very well known character in the local community.

"Not only that but also because of his employment.

"You see what he does. He writes books, he has been on television, he has created a certain character encouraging youngsters to become interested in horticulture.

"If you look at his behaviour throughout the last few years then he is a man of quite impeccable character.

"He is in many ways a ruined man, his income certainly is going to suffer.

"His life has been ruined simply because of these very stupid acts, acts which will never be repeated."

Brookes was granted conditional bail until his sentencing on February 8.

* Brookes became known as "Mr Rotavator" in the 1990s for his work on educational Channel 4 shows and visiting schools to encourage horticulture.

According to his website he has broadcast live "for many years from Chelsea Flower Show and BBC Gardeners' World Live".

Air freshener with camera
Air freshener with camera

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