A Bendigo man who secretly photographed women in the change-rooms of a Bendigo clothes store is set to avoid jail despite priors for sexual assault.

Michael Warren, 26, pleaded guilty in the Bendigo Magistrates Court yesterday to using an optical surveillance device.

The court heard Warren had used his mobile phone to take pictures of women getting changed in a dressing room on March 25 last year.

Police believe the pictures were taken at the Kmart store in Lansell Plaza, Kangaroo Flat.

Four pictures of partially clothed women were found when police seized Warren’s phone during a search of his home in December last year.

Warren’s defence lawyer Peter Baker said his client had relatively low intelligence, cognitive difficulties, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety and substance abuse problems.

Mr Baker said he had told Warren he needed to stay away from drugs, namely cannabis, because it would only exacerbate his mental health issues.

Mr Baker said the incident was at the lower end of sexual offending because there was no violence or weapons involved.

“The victims were entirely unaware this had happened, it was non-contact sexual offending.” Magistrate Jennifer Tregent said the fact the victims were unaware did not lessen the need for punishment.

“I think the female population of Bendigo would feel very uneasy about the offences,” she said.

Ms Tregent said Warren’s late plea of guilty also showed a lack of insight into his offending.

“He maintained for quite a period of time that he didn’t commit the offences when the evidence was on his phone,” she said.

“That lack of recognition is always a concern in this type of case because that’s the way to therapy and rehabilitation.”

Mr Baker suggested Warren be placed on a community corrections order so he could get some support for his rehabilitation.

He said Warren had already completed a sex offender program – after being convicted of rape and indecent assault – and found it “helpful”. Ms Tregent agreed a CCO would offer more chance of rehabilitation than a jail term.

She said it would be inappropriate for Warren to be placed on the sex offender register because he had been deemed a “low risk of violent offending”.

The sentencing was adjourned for six weeks for a pre-sentence report to be completed.

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