A MAN caught trying to take pictures up a woman's skirt in Cheshire Oaks said to security when caught: "Did you see the a*** on her though?"

Police then found Gareth Hale, 36, of Pipers Row, Wolverhampton, had more than 1,300 photos, taken up women's skirts, in his possession.

Chester Crown Court heard on Monday, February 24 that while Hale had sourced some of those photos from the internet, the majority were ones he had taken between 2012 and 2018 in Cheshire Oaks, Vicars Cross and Great Boughton, Chester.

The offences happened before the Act of Parliament which made upskirting specifically a criminal offence, with Judge Simon Berkson saying he would use the guidelines of voyeurism when forming the sentence.

Prosecuting, Nadeem Nemat said Hale was observed in the M&S Cheshire Oaks on August 29, 2018, recording a female bending over in the shoe section.

A security guard spotted him and caught up with Hale.

Hale passed his phone to the security guard, who noticed it was filled with family photos.

The guard realised this was not the phone used to take photos of the woman and Hale handed over a second phone which did have the recording.

Hale added: "Did you see the a*** on her though?"

Police seized Hale's phones, an iPad and a laptop, recovering 605 images on one phone and 752 on another, plus 86 videos.

A number of photos had been edited to attach a picture of the corresponding victim's face.

When interviewed, Hale admitted he did it for sexual gratification when drunk or bored, using it as a distraction.

He had no previous convictions.

Defending, Richard Thomas said Hale had pleaded guilty from the outset and has had to wait 18 months to be sentenced.

Since the arrest, he had lost everything – his job, his relationship with his partner and his home, and since then had tried to rebuild his life.

He had been drinking for a number of years since the death of two family relatives, but had not drunk alcohol for 450 days.

He had got a new job and was providing money for his partner, who was dedicated full time to looking after their child.

His partner was "enormously upset" by what had happened, but there was now hope for him, and Mr Thomas added if any custodial term imposed could be suspended.

Mr Thomas said: "He will never behave in this way ever again," adding there was no evidence Hale had offended since the arrest.

Hale was "a completely different man" but would still benefit from a community order, Mr Thomas suggested.

In addition, a number of the images found were duplicates caused by the two phones syncing.

Judge Berkson told Hale there was "a significant prospect of rehabilitation" and handed him an 18-month community order, to include 20 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

Hale must also complete 200 hours unpaid work and pay £150 prosecution costs, and a victim surcharge.

His laptop, iPad and phones were to be forfeited and destroyed.