Northern Ireland

Ed Sheeran and Bruce Springsteen guitar maker Stephen McIlwrath acquitted of upskirting offence involving girl in school uniform

Stephen McIlwrath however to be sentenced for having indecent images of children

Stephen McIlwrath appeared at Craigavon court on Wednesday. Picture by Pacemaker
Stephen McIlwrath at a previous hearing at Craigavon court. Picture by Pacemaker

A FAMOUS Irish guitar maker has been acquitted of taking an upskirting video of a schoolgirl.

After the 12 jurors were sworn in at Craigavon Crown Court, prosecuting counsel Joseph Murphy formally offered no evidence against 64-year-old Stephen McIlwrath on a charge of outraging public decency.

He said that while a video which “depicts a young female in school uniform travelling up an escalator” was uncovered on a phone owned by McIlwrath, “evidence has recently come to light that suggests the video may have been recorded outside of the jurisdiction.”

Mr Murphy said the video was recorded “most likely in Co Dublin” which means the case cannot be prosecuted in Northern Ireland “so we are offering no evidence” in relation to the offence of outraging public decency “by recording upskirt images of an unknown female” on a date unknown between 1 July 2016 and 30 May 2018.

Instructing the jury to record a verdict of “not guilty by direction,” Judge Patrick Lynch KC told them that was because McIlwrath “has committed no offence in this jurisdiction so there is no triable issue that we can deal with”.

He also told them however that McIlwrath, from Breton View in Lisburn, has entered guilty pleas to charges of having “illegal images of children and will be sentenced in due course” for those.

As long ago as March last year McIlwrath entered guilty pleas to 11 charges of possessing and making indecent images of children and while count one states he had 175 indecent images, the defence contend that he only had 40 images.

The defence also contend that McIlwrath, a guitar maker for global music stars including Ed Sheeran and Bruce Springsteen, did not have them to obtain any sexual gratification but rather that he had stored them to alert the authorities to the website where he obtained them.

The court has previously heard how officers from the PSNI internet child protection team searched McIlwrath’s home and seized a total of 21 devices.

Mr Murphy outlined that when the officers asked McIlwrath if he had any indecent images of children, he declared “I’m on your side” and although he admitted that he had some on an iPhone7 which was seized, he claimed “they were disgusting and abhorred him.”

Saving them to his Tumblr blog, McIlwrath claimed he was going to send them to Yahoo to “highlight the inconsistencies of applying their policies” but Mr Murphy said that account was not accepted by the Crown.

Freeing McIlwrath on continuing bail on Tuesday Judge Lynch did not fix a date for that hearing but told the 64-year-old to keep in touch with his legal team.