Man Offers Medical Explanation For What May Have Seemed Like Peeping

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Here's one I drafted last summer but, for some reason, never got around to posting.  It still seems worth mentioning, though, because of the remarkable defense argument involved.

In July 2009, 30-year-old Sultan al-Sayed was sentenced to nine weeks in jail after a jury in ColchesterChelmsford, England, found him guilty of attempted peeping (okay, "voyeurism") in the swimming-pool area of a local "leisure centre."  Apparently, the pool area has changing cubicles used by men and women alike, and the walls of these rooms do not go all the way to the floor, which, as the next sentence will demonstrate, is a design flaw.  A young girl testified that someone in the cubicle next to hers had pushed a mirror under the wall (see?), and that she saw a man's reflection in it.  She described the man to her mother, mom told police, and police found al-Sayed not far away with a mirror in his possession.

A circumstantial case, arguably, but a pretty strong one – unless, of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why he had a mirror with him at the swimming pool.  (He admitted he had been in the pool area.)  Turns out there was.  And here it is.

During the trial, [al-Sayed] told the court he went into the leisure centre that day to look for a lost mobile phone when he suffered a pain in his mouth.

He said he shut himself in a cubicle to gargle with mouthwash, but as he sat down on the cubicle bench, he was overcome with a pain in his left leg which had started to spasm.

He said he had been massaging his leg while crouching on the floor and using a mirror to look in his mouth.

So, you see, it was all a big misunderstanding.  Just looking for my cellphone, when I was suddenly overcome with mouth pain, but I managed to stagger into a cubicle in order to do some private gargling with this mouthwash I luckily brought along, but just then my leg cramped up, and so I had to crouch on the floor and massage my leg with one hand while simultaneously trying to look into my mouth with this mirror I also happened to have.

Is that what happened or did you see that on an episode of Frasier?

Another report offered a slightly different version of this story, in which al-Sayed claimed he was lying on the ground (not just crouching, or maybe this was after the crouch) because he needed to put his cheek on the cool, soothing concrete in order to ease the pain of his toothache.  Surprisingly, this argument was also to no avail, even though he was able to present some evidence that he had suffered from an abscess in his mouth at some point.  It is not clear how good this evidence was, or whether there was a better explanation of what the mirror was for.  (Maybe it was a dental mirror, in which case this might be a cruel injustice indeed.)

Neither the jury nor Judge Rodger Hayward-Smith was convinced. "You went to Colchester Leisure World," Hayward-Smith told the defendant at his sentencing, "with a mirror deliberately to spy on people in the changing cubicles."  [Note: the peeping occurred in Colchester, but I'm told the jury trial would have been in Chelmsford. Hence the correction above.] "You have not shown a flicker of remorse," he continued, and the offense was "aggravated by pre-planning."  Wait — he planned to have a toothache at that particular time?  I don't understand, your Honor.

Judge Hayward-Smith sentenced the defendant to nine weeks in jail, after which he recommended the man be deported back to his native Saudi Arabia.  Where they likely mete out harsh justice indeed for those who peep.

Link: Colchester Gazette (June 25)
Link: Colchester Gazette (July 30)