A woman who was filmed undressing in secret by the man she called ‘dad’ has spoken out about the shocking breach of trust which has torn her family apart.
Joy Smith was brought up by her mother and stepfather, now-convicted sex offender Shaun Mitchell, who had been a friend of the family since before she was born.
When strangers referred to him as her dad, she did not correct them, because, although she was still in touch with her biological father, Mitchell was like a dad to her.
The 24-year-old would never have suspected that Mitchell, 52, looked at her in any other way than that of a daughter.
However, his sordid secret was revealed a year ago when Joy’s younger brother was horrified to discover videos of his sister undressing when he used the family computer at their home in Barnes, Sunderland.
One clip even showed Mitchell installing the USB camera pen he used to film her in her bedroom.
He’s done so much for me in my life as my dad and it’s just awful that he’s thought about me in this way. It’s pretty shocking and absolutely bizarre. This is someone I thought of as family. It’s incomprehensible, really.Joy Smith
Last week, Mitchell, of Twickenham Road, Thorney Close, was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail, suspended for two years, having earlier pleaded guilty to observing a person doing a private act for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification at Sunderland Magistrates Court.
Now Joy has bravely decided to waive her right to anonimity to speak out.
Joy, who works as a business analyst in Sunderland city centre, told the Echo: “I’ve known Shaun my entire life. He was a trusted family friend from before I was born.
“Then, when my parents divorced, when I was eight, my mum started seeing Shaun and they got married when I was 12.
“He would drop me off and pick me up from school. I never corrected people when they called him my dad.
“I lived with Shaun. We did all the dad and daughter things. We were very close, we talked a lot. He’s done so much for me in my life as my dad and it’s just awful that he’s thought about me in this way.
“It’s pretty shocking and absolutely bizarre. This is someone I thought of as family. It’s incomprehensible, really. I feel very sorry for my brother. I didn’t have any idea until he found out.”
Joy was 22 at the time she was filmed by Mitchell and the revelation of what had occurred came in an unexpected 3am phonecall from the police. It left Joy feeling paranoid about her childhood.
“Once I found out, I started questioning everything that’s happened in the past,” she said. “I think back to the all times when he’s accidentally walked into my room and all the things he said. When did he start thinking like that? Has he always thought that way? It’s a betrayal.
“They found a photo of me and my brother with his things, but my brother had been cut off.”
And to make things worse, Joy was devastated to find that some family members remained loyal to Mitchell after what happened.
“He’s still involved with the family and it has caused me to feel a bit excluded in some ways,” she said. “It ruins the family for me, even though I’ve not done anything wrong.
“His photos are still up in the house. I shouldn’t be made to feel like that. I didn’t ask for any of this.”
Joy’s biological father and his side of the family have been a great deal of comfort to her, although she waited several months before she felt able to talk about it at all. At the time she had no choice but to stay in the very room where she was filmed, until she found alternative accommodation.
“My dad’s family have been really, really supportive,” she said. “My brother and my friends understand and they think it’s pretty disgusting, but I feel guilty that I can’t make it all go away. It’s a massive deal.
“I would like to forgive him, but I don’t see how I can forget. I still have dreams where he’s there, sometimes as normal and sometimes in a threatening way.”
She described the first time she accidentally saw Mitchell, three months after his secret was discovered.
“I was really, really angry,” Joy said. “I pretty much panicked. I just wanted to get away. I felt disgust. I broke down for a good couple of hours.
“Now, when I see someone who looks like him, I get a shock. It’s silly because it’s not like he is going to harm me.”
Joy is grateful to the police for how they dealt with the case.
“The police have been very sympathetic,” she said. “I would encourage anyone experiencing a similar thing to get in touch with the police. They were very good.
“Now I know first-hand how big that impact is, when it involves family, it’s not really fair on anyone to have to suffer in silence. There is a lot of pressure to push things under the carpet.
“I’m not a vengeful person I don’t want to see him hanged or anything. I just want nothing more to do with him.”
As part of his sentence Mitchell will have to sign on the Sex Offenders’ Register for seven years.
Magistrates also sentenced Mitchell to two years’ supervision, and made an indefinite restraining order in respect of the victim.
He will also be required to live and sleep at his current address for a year and was told to pay £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.