A COACH driver who'd been banned from working with children filmed up schoolgirls' skirts with a hidden camera for two years.

Andrew Whatmough, of Wood Park in Ludgershall, worked as a coach driver for Parnhams Coaches, based in Ludgershall.

The 35-year-old had worked for the company, which holds contracts with both Wiltshire and Hampshire Council to provide school run services, on and off for about ten years.

Salisbury Crown Court heard on Friday (June 2) that between September 2013 and September 2015 Whatmough had installed a hidden camera on his coach and was filming schoolgirls.

Despite having no previous convictions, Whatmough received a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in 2014 which banned him from working with children, but he was already employed by Parnham Coaches.

Defending, Berenice Mulvanny did not clarify what led to the DBS involvement but referred to "an unpleasant action from 1997".

Prosecuting, Dawn Hyland said Whatmough's offending came to light when, without his knowledge, his mother lent his Play Station console to his step-brother.

When his step-brother used the console he found "a number of films" that had been made by the defendant, and he found further films on a USB stick Whatmough had lent him "on an earlier occasion".

Ms Hyland said the hidden camera, located near the steps of the coach, had captured "up-skirt films" of schoolgirls under the age of 16, "showing their underwear and on occasions their genitals as well can be seen".

About 20 girls, who are kept anonymous due to the nature of the crime, have been identified by police using facial recognition software on stills from Whatmough's films, and from their school uniforms.

However, Judge Andrew Barnett told the court: "It is accepted that there were more girls than this affected on these counts".

Judge Barnett said he had read victim impact statements which he described as "very distressing".

He said: "All say they were horrified to discover what had happened, as getting on the school bus they thought they were quite safe."

One girl said: "I feel more cautious wearing skirts and dresses" and Ms Hyland said many of the girls had been "embarrassed" to find out they'd been filmed.

Police seized two phones from Whatmough during their investigations and uncovered more than 1,500 images of children (114 in the most serious bracket, category A, 135 in category B and 1,263 in category C).

In his first interview in January Whatmough "fully admitted" possessing the indecent images and making movie clips.

He told police he was "in a dark place and didn't know how to get out" and that he "didn't have any sexual interest in young children".

Whatmough said he'd record on the camera for his whole shift and then "cut out the parts he didn't want" but he knew it was wrong and apologised for his actions.

He pleaded guilty to eleven counts of outraging public decency by covertly filming someone under the age of 16, two counts of possessing indecent images and one count of engaging in barred activity.

Ms Mulvanny said "despite this" Whatmough was a man of good character with no previous convictions and that he'd pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

His family were supporting him in court and a letter from his father was handed to the judge as well as a letter from Whatmough himself.

Ms Mulvanny said in the letter, his father Steve Whatmough said the defendant was "prepared to take whatever was coming to him".

She said Whatmough had brought a bag to court "anticipating that this would be the outcome" and said he was "thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour".

Sentencing, Judge Barnett said: "For two years while you were working as a coach driver you installed a device in your coach which enabled you to film those entering your coach, effectively from the feet upwards and you obtained a number of unpleasant, indecent and disgusting pictures which invaded their privacy and abused their trust.

"They, and the larger public, must be truly outraged by your behaviour.

"You received a letter in 2014 from the Barring Agency that, for various reasons to do with your background, told you you were barred from working with children, yet you ignored that letter and continued to do so".

Judge Barnett added: "I would be failing in my duty to society if I suspended the sentence and I cannot and I will not do so".

He sentenced Whatmough to 14 months in prison for the charges of outraging public decency, 8 months for possessing indecent images and four months for working while barred, to be served concurrently.

He also made a sexual harm prevention order to last ten years.